Feb. 6, 2018

Trach Care

When I was in nursing school, we had an instructor that had a speech impediment. My heart went out to her as she tried to pronounce many of the difficult vocabulary words associated with medicine. I felt bad when the doctors at the hospital would yell at her.

I remember on one occasion where she was speaking with a surgeon and asked him about the ostomy he was going to perform later that day. She pronounced it as os-tee-o-tommy (os-toe-me is the correct pronunciation).

The doctor asked, “What the (blank) is an os-tee-o-tommy?”

A fellow student, recognizing the impediment as the problem, answered, “She means ostomy.”

At which time (using more expletives than I’m using in his quote), the doctor started screaming at her, “If you cannot pronounce the words correctly then what in the (blankety-blank-blank) are you doing teaching a class!”

She blamed me for that incident even though I was only a spectator and nothing more. Her pets often sat in the classroom during the mornings making fun of her behind her back and mocking her as we waited for class to begin.

She pulled me into the office before class one day and said she’d been sitting on the other side of the partition listening to me make jokes about her.

“I don’t sit near the partition,” I replied. “I sit in the middle row of the class, in the back. Your favorites sit there. You might want to talk to them about it.”

Because of her constant accusations towards me, by the end of the year, I didn’t feel so sorry for her anymore. She couldn’t fail me since I was a dean’s list student. Honestly, she couldn’t do anything to me but complain about me.

When I graduated and passed state board, I didn’t ask for a reference from her, either, as many of the other students had. I just went and got a job. A couple of years later I bumped into her, and of all places, at my job.

We had a patient, David, who had a tracheotomy (hole in his throat/neck so he could breathe). She pronounced it trach-otto-tommy. I was on my way into his room to do trach-care when she stopped me and asked if her students could observe me doing the treatment.

I almost laughed in her face. Instead, I said, “Sure. Come on, but first, let me go ask David if he is comfortable with having an audience.”

I practically ran into the room. I shut the door and ran to David’s bedside. “David! David, listen… my old nursing instructor wants to let the class watch me do trach-care on you. She used to be mean to me when I was in school and this is my chance to get some satisfaction so…when I bring the class in, I’m going to slap this shit on any ole way and then I’ll come back later and do it correctly. Don’t tell and just pretend I am doing it right.”

David nodded. Most times, he was expressionless because he was so depressed. However, when he nodded, I thought I saw a twinkle in his eye.

I stepped out to the hallway and waved the class inside. Very professionally, I began doing my care (incorrectly), explaining (with a crock-of-bull explanations) what I was doing and why. I had to give some rationale to my care. That crazy woman was agreeing with every piece of bull snot I was slinging.

David started laughing. It was the only time I had ever heard or seen him laugh. Every time David laughed he would spit mucous through his trach which he usually did not do during the treatment. It was like he was hocking up a loogie.

“Is that normal?” One student asked of the copious amounts of mucous coming out.

“Oh yes, that’s why we do the trach-care six times a day,” I answered with a straight face (in reality, we only did trach-care once a shift).

The instructor agreed with me and offered her own rationale as to why David was coughing up so much. At one point, David coughed and a loogie hit a student in the chest. I thought for sure he was going to lose it and not get it back either because he began laughing so hard that I almost started laughing, too.

In the midst of all this, the instructor was called away for a phone call and asked me if I would finish up. When she walked out of the room, I confessed to the students what my accomplice and I were up to and then I did the trach-care properly.

I realize that I was giving them misinformation so I was relieved that I was able to correct myself quickly once the teacher left to answer the phone. Otherwise, I was going to have to go to each student individually afterwards and tell him or her.

In the end, they (the students) enjoyed what I did and even thanked me for getting back at her. Quite a few stated they could not wait for the opportunity themselves to do the same in the future.

As for David, well…he would often smile whenever I came in the room after that day. I’m guessing it was because of that particular memory of me incorporating him into my practical joke.