And no, this is not another breast-o-centric post. This is about nursing. Like what nurses do when they are caring for the sick or wounded. Please people, heads out of the gutter!
It feels like I’ve been doing a lot of nursing myself lately, what with all the sick kids around here, messing up my plans to go to the gym, cutting my writing time short, making me see that, after nearly 400 games of Yahtzee!, there really is such a thing as Lucky Days and Unlucky Days. Usually my son Buddy has the Lucky Days, but man, the other day, I got FIVE Yahtzees! in ONE game. The score (for those of you who like to keep it): 679 for me, 188 for Buddy. The only thing that kept my taunting in check was Buddy’s 102.5 fever. Poor Buddy. He was having an Unlucky Day.
But this post is not about Luck any more than it is about Breasts. This post is about my elementary school girl-crush on Clara Barton.
Right. So she’s not much of a looker . . . that made no difference. After all, she was the Angel of the Battlefield, and when you’re the Angel of the Battlefield, it’s probably best not to look like Megan Fox. As Angel of the Battlefield, (for those of you who haven’t been obsessed with her) Clara Barton distributed medical supplies and food on the front lines of battles. She started the American Red Cross. She nursed wounded Civil War soldiers back to health, cradling their heads, offering them sips of water when they could receive it from the bonnet-clad, long-skirted angel at their bedside. And, the ones who died in her arms? She spoke to them in hushed, gentle tones, explaining the truth of their trauma before they slipped into death.
Which is probably why, every year at Sleepy Hollow Elementary, when we were asked to do The Biography Book Report, I chose Clara Barton. Every year. While other kids were opting for Helen Keller or Houdini, I stayed the course. And really, is there any hardship when one is studying the one one loves? Perhaps I thought if I were Sarah Barton, Angel of the Playground, and Drew or Jason or Nils were wounded, I might be called upon to cradle their heads, offer them a sip of water from a Dixie cup.
Of course, somewhere along the line, I realized that as much as I would love to comfort the sick or wounded, I was not cut out for nursing. I don’t like smelly things, for starters. Nor excrement nor secretions of any kind. And vomit makes me almost vomit. Even more concerning, I tend to forget what time I have administered the medication of my own ailing charges. Children’s Tylenol at 9:00 a.m.? Or was it noon. Or was it 9:00 p.m.? When my kids are sick, time softens. A day at home with sick kids could be a day, or it could be a month. It all passes in a haze.
But there are those moments of joy too. Those moments when lovely things happen because my feverish kids are still for more than eight seconds at a time, because we are all housebound and we get to play hundreds of games and read hundreds of library books and watch Looney Tunes and drink 7-up ON THE COUCH!
Last night I was up with wee Buddy three times; the 3:04 a.m. time was one of those lovely times. The night, I will admit, had not started out lovely, as Buddy, feverish and sleep-walking, emerged from his bedroom at 8:00, scurried into the kitchen, and started to pee on the oven door. My parents will tell you that I did the same thing when I was about Buddy’s age . . . only I was not feverish. I was just sleepwalking. And I peed not on the stove door but in the empty fireplace. If you’re a sleepwalker, you will agree with me that many, many things resemble a loo when you are sleepwalking.
But back to the loveliness. When Buddy woke up at 3:04, feverish but totally alert, he and I had the most charming little conversation. It went a little somethin’ like this:
“Mom, I have one comment and one question for you. First is the question: why, on my human body poster, are some of the muscles white and some red?”
I paused. Being a bullshooter, I knew there was no need for panic. “Red muscles are lean. More muscle-y. While white muscles are fattier. They’re slower, much slower than then lean muscles.”
Buddy was quiet for a moment. “OK, now here’s my comment: you know that duck in Looney Tunes? He’s funny. Some people don’t like him, but I think he’s funny. Will you sit next to me on the couch and watch Looney Tunes tomorrow?”
“Yeah, bud. Go to sleep now?”
“And can I have 7-up for breakfast?”
“OK. Thanks, Mom.”
Why are my children more polite when they are feverish? Clara Barton would know. Clara Barton would also know why muscles are different colors.
So when Buddy’s breathing slowed and evened to sleep breathing, I went to my computer to Google “red muscles and white muscles” only to find that I was absolutely wrong. The color has NOTHING to do with fattyness and everything to do with twitch. Shoot!
That’s the danger of being a bullshooter of course; sometimes you’re wrong. And gosh how I dislike being wrong! Even if it is just being wrong about muscle-color.
I’m no Clara Barton, but if I’m going to be a nurse even one-tenth as amazing as she, I really should make sure I tell my patients, even my sickest of patients, the truth, certainly about human biology.
Really, as their Angel of the Children’s Tylenol, that’s the least I can do. And that’s what I will do. Right after we watch ourselves a little Looney Tunes together on the couch.