The Sound of Sunshine

It’s suprising to  write two posts in less than a 48 hour span of time, but I just came back from a swimming lesson with my coach and heard The Sound of Sunshine playing on the radio, which has a couple lyrics about learning to swim, and was inspired to write a post on swimming (my thought process is odd). The swim lesson was good. I continue to learn so much about swimming and how important it is in a triathlon race.

In all honesty, I have a love/hate relationship with swimming. In fact, I think I tend to err on the bipolar side whenever anyone asks how swimming is going.

“Oh, it’s great–best activity and sport out there! Works every muscle in your body, I feel fantastic after a workout.”

Or, quite possibly less than two hours later, my response could be:

“F—ing stupid sport in water, whoever invented it should be PUNISHED. It’s stupid and I hate it! Who works out in WATER?”

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve tried to meet up with my coach atleast once a week for a swim lesson. Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I have swimming lessons and am in my 20’s.Had I continued with the swim team/spending time in a pool after the age of 13, I wouldn’t have needed the lessons. Then again, pool swimming and triathlon swimming are quite different. Main difference is that triathlons are usually in open water, and the water is not chlorinated. Right now, my sessions in the pool on my own are still composed of doing drills, and then some are just LSD (long slow distance) swims. I have no plans on ever becoming a member of another swim team again in my life, but do plan on continuing to do triathlons in the future (if, that is, I don’t die doing Mooseman, which is a possibility).

What are the drills?
  • The one arm drill: where you have your left arm extended underwater and then just stroke with your right arm, making sure you have a high elbow and enter with your arm above the head  doing that for a hundred or so yards, and then switch arms.
  • Catch up: where both arms are still below the water, but when you go to stroke with your right arm you reach past the left arm under the water, and then when you stroke with your left arm, you reach past the right hand. There is a lot of extension involved–extending the stroking arm past the other arm.
  • Swimming using Finis Forearm Fulcrum Paddles which helps your arm entry form ( whenever I use them feel like I am drowning) and hand paddles (which show you if you are bending your hand or not in water–you feel resistance if you are doing it wrong–I was always meeting resistance).

Swimming is simply hard. Trying to remember to pretend I’m diving into a barrel but keeping my elbows up our of the water (who does that?) then having my fingers impact the water first–and fingers snug against each other. Using my abdominal muscles to keep my butt up so that my legs don’t sink when I take a breath (she notices these things). Whenever I go to take a breath, one goggle should be in the water, and I need to look back behind towards my armpit while breathing and doing the stroke. Remembering to keep my legs together, and kick from my heels, not my knees. It not only takes being in good shape to be a swimmer, but being mentally capable of remembering all these things whilst doing them that gets to me.

My coach likes to end sessions on a good note, and as time was running out, i just swam fifty yards, which, she said, was perfect. “It looked like you were just swimming, not thinking about everything I was having you do, like your brain turned off, and, you just swam.”

Yay!

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What I Love and Hate About my Profession

In attempts to further delay the ride I have planned for today after just seeing that it is eleven degrees outside, and “feels like -1,” I thought I’d write a post about nursing–one of the original reasons for starting this blog (crazy, right? You thought I started the blog to follow only my training).

It’s been almost nine months since I started working at TKH, and the past couple nights at work were bearable. I have no idea how people work five days in a row–a week. Last night I finished my fourth shift in a row, and towards the end of the shift, when you are getting ready to go and give report, your brain just ceases to function. As my colleagues pointed out, I tend to laugh a lot when I am exhausted. Laugh at insignificant things, too, so much that I start tearing up.

Working in an adult intensive care unit is a completely different type of nursing than pediatrics nursing, and I miss working with kids. Yes, there were times working in the PICU where your patients passed away, which was heart wrenching, because they were two years old and in my mind, children should not die. But, on a normal med-surg pediatrics floor, sick children are still children, and there are a lot of nurses who could never work with children, simply because they are kids and not adults. They walk to the playroom lugging an IV pole behind them in one tiny fist, and holding a parents hand in the other. They squirm and wiggle around when you try to listen to breath sounds, and get tangled up in tubing in their crib. Some kids grow up in hospitals, with rare medical conditions that make the top neurologists ask questions. They attempt to color pictures for you, and ask to play games.I miss feeding the infants at night, rocking them to sleep. Yes, something wrong happened and they had to get hospitalized. But, the majority of peds patients get better, and can go home, and continue to be…Kids.

Adults are different. Actually, in some ways, it’s harder working with adults than squirming kids. Adults are needy. They may not complain about not being able to play and have to go to sleep, but they complain. I’m pretty tolerant of needy adults, but after five hours of constant bell ringing of needing another sip of water (when I put two pitchers of water next to your bed) or that the sheet is not covering your toes enough, I get a little fed up.

Life is funny. You enter the world needing to be nurtured and taken care of, and in a lot of cases, leave the world, much older, but needing the same basic things.

Why am I thinking about this? I just had a nineteen year old boy who was in a MVA in October–before then, completely normal. A walking, talking, athletic, teenager who was ready to go to college. I have not taken care of a 19 year old since living in D.C. Now, his pupils are non reactive, different sizes, and fixed in place. He has a PEG tube. Seizures. A tracheostomy. He couldn’t keep his heart rate up on his own–we coded him, twice.

And when the majority of the patients you take care of are sedated and on ventilators and have breathing tubes to help them breath, when you actually get a (friendly) patient to talk with, it’s special. And, that’s a reason I became a nurse, to care and nurture, to listen. To be a presence and help someone during their most vulnerable times. And nursing now a days is not like that.But I had a rare night last night when I could do that. My patient had gone into flash pulmonary edema on the floor and was rapid responsed needing to come up to the ICU. I was the ICU nurse who went to the rapid response, and he ended up being my patient in the ICU. It was amazing how well he did after given the NTG drip, lasix, morphine and beta blockers, as well as Bipap.

The next night when I came back to see he was my patient again, I walked into his doorway and exclaimed, “Well, look at you! Sitting up in bed eating some crackers!”

“I know, hun. Do you have ice cream? I really would like some ice cream?” He said as he scratched his face.

This 78 year old man was cute as a button.

“Sure, let me go find some!”

And then, after his snack, I gave him a bath while we talked about the hospital. And he asked if I could shave him (he had long side burns and a mustache/almost goatee ) and I said, “Ofcourse!” and then I went on to lather up his neck, cheeks, and chin, and shave him. (Might I add, I did a wicked good job shaving that goatee he had). After it was all done, and I was wiping away with a damp washcloth the excess shaving cream from his face, he looked up at me and said, “you know, I never let anyone else shave me, but you seemed special.”

“Well, Mr. X, I hate to brag, but I did do a fantastic job, and you are handsome as ever now.”

That last story was one reason why I love my job. The human to human contact you have with your awake –sane–patients. The stories that make your heart sing.

Another reason I love my job: I love my coworkers to death. They are amazing women and men, with a wealth of knowledge that I can only pray one day I will have. They care about each other. We laugh when we shouldn’t be laughing, occasionally cry when we shouldn’t be crying. We’ve become family. With my parents living overseas, I’ve found my “America Mommy and Daddy” at work (corny, yes.)

I love  when you have the rare, incredible turn of events on a patients stay. They coded three times, could not seem to be weaned off the ventilator, and are in the ICU for weeks. Then after a week of being away from work, you come back and ask, “Where is Ms. X?” And your colleagues say she was discharged from the hospital the day before–walking and talking. Then you get a card with a picture of the patient holding her lap dog again. It’s joyous.

I love some of the comments that come out of patient’s mouths sometimes. They are simply hysterical. For example, the 78 year old man who kept asking for a diet coke, and wanted the hot blond nurse back the next day….Man, I have a million hilarious comments.

I love the action that happens in the ICU–the controlled chaos. I’m a closet adrenalin junky.

What do I dislike?

Residents who do not know what the hell they are talking about, giving you orders and telling you to do things that you know will kill the patient. In the midst of a patient going downhill, the resident on the phone with the true doctor, unsure of what is happening. You feel like slapping the resident and pulling the phone from his/her hand and talking to the doctor yourself. I’m not saying all residents are like this, but some are. Just because you have been to medical school doesn’t mean you need to be a cocky nasty person.

It disturbs me when after years of ignoring a family member as evidenced by the lack of hygiene and medical state they are in-once the family member is admitted to the hospital, the family members are all of a sudden involved in the persons life. How could someone ignore their sick mother for years, and all of a sudden care?

I don’t like yelling. I don’t like screaming. I try to avoid conflict, and am incredibly passive (yes, passive aggressive too). Probably one of my biggest flaws. I hate having to raise my voice when talking to others. I have a very hard time criticizing others, and even harder time when others criticize me (perfectionist? Hell yeah, I admit it. Being a perfectionist and working in intensive care works well. In order to be on top of everything, knowing each detail is required). I’m getting better with age with the criticism, but still have a thing with people yelling at me. Even though it happens often in a hospital setting, where stress levels triple of family members and friends of the patients, I know because I was there when my grandmother was in the same ICU as I work last year, it still bothers me.“Poor thing, got slammed by a family member last night. Could you imagine? Someone screaming at our Molly?”

And there is nothing worse than getting yelled at for something you have no control over what.so.ever.

“Ma’am, I apologize, but I have no control over that, you really need to discuss that with the doctor tomorrow. I’m not a surgeon. I’m not a doctor. The knowledge I have about your husband is what I’ve seen documented, and the report I’ve gotten from the other nurses.”

The above example is another thing I dislike about the job.

Another one: the insane amount of paperwork we have to do. I care. A lot. Too much. But you need that in my profession.However, a warning to new nurses. Nursing now is not what it was twenty years ago. If you do not like to document, don’t become a nurse. At least in the United States of America. I would say, 90% of nursing now is covering your ass for what you did and didn’t do. Not to scare you, but just think– in a country where you will sue your neighbor for falling on their driveway over a branch, imagine now working in a profession where you are legally responsible for caring for a living beings life. If you write in a note that you gave a medication or you called a doctor, you did that. You wrote that down on a medical record. Twenty years from now when you are in court and people are asking you what happened on that “Tuesday at 0215 on so-and-so date” will you remember? No. But the documentation will. There is a reason in nursing school now they drill “DOCUMENT.DOCUMENT.DOCUMENT.” into your brain. What do I remember about nursing school? Those three words. Well, those, and just pure misery.

I don’t like the fact that in the adult ICU, the majority of the patients will never leave the hospital due to their age and medical condition. Unlike kids, they won’t bounce back to perfect health.

Lastly (I could go on and on with this post), it breaks my heart to see grown men cry. I can deal with women crying–it’s what women do. But when a son comes to visit his dying father in tears, I think I can actually feel my heart cracking. And I’ve dealt with a lot of deaths at work.

All in all, I still feel I could not have picked a job that fits my personality better. I know I won’t be staying at TKH forever, but thus far, it’s been a great job.

It’s…Dirty!

I try not to attach labels to people or things, as I think that is just wrong, but I think it is safe to say that I am a clean/neat freak. I’m not an anal clean freak–except for when I’m stressed–then the vacuum comes out twice a day. But, I feel more comfortably if things are tidy and neat. I’m getting better at not attacking the lone used spoon laying in my sink–I wait for a couple of other dishes to pile up before wasting water to wash them (okay okay, so a bowl added to the spoon is enough for me to start washing). From time away from training, I had color coordinated all my jackets and the rest of my clothes–not OCD at all.

And, I thought I was getting better at containing my need for order and cleanliness…Allowing used (but still clean) clothes to pile up on a chair in my room (folded, ofcourse).

But, I realized, the progress I have made in becoming less anal and neat-freakish disappears when my bike gets dirty.

I hate when my bike is dirty.

Which means any races that involve mud, dirt, and my bike, may never happen.

I had this realization upon returning from an amazing ride in the warmest weather I have felt all winter. Yes, it was 51 degrees out, and I had feeling in my fingers and toes. No, the water in my water bottle did not freeze on the ride. But, perhaps even worse, my bike was filthy at the end, due to the melting snow creating streams in the street, a mini mud slide that developed on my driveway, small rocks and debris all commingled with salt particles used during our snow storms.

Upon returning and riding up the mud slide of my driveway, thinking “ew ew ew ew” all the way from the main road to my door, I got off my bike and almost had a heart attack when I saw the state of my baby. Just two days prior i had a conversation with my coach’s significant other about cleaning a bike, and found it interesting to know that the guys at the shop will use Simple Green or Pledge to clean the bikes. For some odd reason I thought that was corrosive to the bike. Then again, my bike knowledge is next to nothing. “Nope, we use it all the time,” was his response.

With the horrible sight of my bike in such condition, I could not do anything else–or think of anything other than getting it clean. Yes, my clothes were muddy and my backpack had a trail of mud up the middle from the spray of my wheels, but all i could concentrate on was cleaning. And, yes, cross racers will probably think that the condition of my bike post ride was nothing compared to theirs after they compete in their races and scoff at my odd behavior. But, as you probably already realized, there is a reason why I may never partake in that type of racing.

For a second, I thought that hosing the bike off would be easier to clear away the mud, but alas, I have no idea where our hose is. So, I shed the mud crusted cycling attired and trudged through my house in search of cleaning spray. 7th Generation Lavender scented all-purpose spray would do the trick.

Now, I am by no means suggesting I have never cleaned my bike before–it’s my pride and joy, and I worry about it sometimes more than a sane normal person would. But I’ve never sat down with paper towels and cleaning spray to make sure every speck of mud or crusted salt was off of the frame, or gears, or spokes. I’m afraid to say that the mailman probably thinks I am a very odd creature after pulling up to give me my mail and find me cross legged on the front porch cleaning in between the tire and back brakes with a paper towel.

Front done, now onto the back

After about forty-five minutes of scrutinizing over the bike, it looked shinier and cleaner than ever, and now every time I pass it I cannot help but take a whiff of that lovely lavender smell.

Cold Weather Riding

Getting ready to become a moving popsicle

It’s been awhile since I’ve actually ridden my bike outside and not on the trainer, with the combination of medical issues, snow storms, and the fact it is below freezing, have all kept me riding my bike inside. But, this morning I decided to go for a spin after numerous unsuccessful attempts yesterday where my rides were cut short due to chain issues. A friend was in Rhinebeck and stopped by to say hi, and it just so happens he’s a cyclist. After looking outside at the sun, I suggested we go for a ride (as it just so happens he had his riding attire in his car, too).

“Lets go for a ride.”

“It’s 7 degrees out…It feels like 4. Do you know the wind chill is with a temperature like that?” he said, handing me his iPhone as if I did not believe his forecast reading abilities.

“I have an extra pair of gloves you can borrow?”

“Sure, why not. It’s sunny.”

I have no idea how I have the ability to convince people to do things with me in literally freezing weather. I guess it is safe to say the majority of hardcore cyclists out there are just as crazy as I am.

Mentally preparing myself for the cold conditions we are about to face.

The ride itself was not too bad, and felt warmer than 7 degrees. Okay, that is a lie. The “feels like 4 degrees” on Jim’s iPhone must have been lying to us, too. I was frozen the whole ride. The water in my water bottle froze, and the water in the tube attached to my water bladder camel back was frozen, so I could not drink anything. For some odd reason, I did not plan on my water freezing, but that only makes sense, since water freezes at 32 degrees, and we were riding in single digit temperature.

So, what made this cold weather riding experience possible? 1) my insanity and 2) my brilliant winter riding attire.

Cold weather cycling is a lot like cold winter running which I wrote a whole post on, called, Running in the Cold and Snow,  so I will not be redundant about all the attire needed. But I wanted to talk about the type of attire that makes winter riding possible or bearable, atleast for me.

It’s vital if you decide to ride in the cold, you are properly dressed. Otherwise, the cold temperatures can do damage to the body. You could become hypothermic…Believe me, it’s just dangerous. My winter riding pants are amazing, and shield your legs from the wind when riding. They are Craft PCX Storm tights that I wear over cycling shorts. When my coach told me they were the best tights out there, she wasn’t lying. I even use them when its single digits out running because they are so warm, and they do not have build in chamois (hence why I needed to wear a pair of bike shorts underneath). On a separate note, Craft has some great winter sports attire too, if you are into cross country skiing, or outdoor running…It’s pricy, but worth it.

On the ride, my core was warm enough wearing an Under Armour long sleeved shirt below a Pearl Izumi’s pro series soft shell cycling jacket, which I cannot praise enough for it’s windstopping capabilities. With just those two top layers on, my upper body was warm.

My feet and hands were a different story. For the majority of the ride, my fingers were warm in the lobster gloves I wear (if you are not used to those types of gloves, handling gears can feel awkward at first, but then you get used to your fingers in the position they are). But towards the end, I started to lose feeling in the digits, which can be uncomfortable. My riding partner, who is an astounding athlete, has amazing circulation and never gets cold hands. I’m secretly jealous of him. Okay, I guess that secret is out now.

There are specialized winter riding shoes that you can get, which usually are gore-tex and have more windstopping abilities than normal cycling shoes. I simply wore two pairs of booties over my shoes, which was still not enough. My toes are still thawing as I write this. I’m pretty sure if you go to your local bike shop they can help you with if you really want to get some warm riding shoes. Shimano has some great winter riding shoes made specifically for winter riding, which one day I might invest in if it continues to be so cold….Ohh how i cannot wait until spring!

Since the face is the least protected part when riding, it’s super important to wear a hat, or ear muffs, or scarf to protect the head and neck (AND do not forget the helmet!!!!). I just wear a balaclava that covers my nose, because that part of my face tends to freeze first in cold weather. It’s less painful when you have a barrier between your mouth and the outside air when you are breathing (if you breath through your mouth that is). A balaclava keeps the majority of your face covered, too, which your frozen nose definitely thanks you for. Even still, I always seem to have tears streaming down my face from the wind.

Lastly, eye protection. With the already freezing temperature out, plus wind you are facing when riding (oh boy, are going down hills brutal), you need something to shield your eyes. And, if there is snow on the ground, like there is where I am now, you need to shield your eyes from the bright reflection of the snow–similar to why ski and snowboard goggles are tinted. The brightness of the reflection can cause damage to your eyes. Today, I just wore a pair of sun glasses. If there is no snow, you can get clear glasses which help protect your eyes from the wind. I used to have a pair until I stepped on them. Oops.

Post-ride, Jim to me: "You can take your stuff off, we're inside." My response: "I can't unhook the helmet, my fingers are too cold."

I must admit, other than the frozen extremities, the ride was nice. If you do go riding, be aware that the salt on the roads can be damaging to your bike, so once you are done with the ride, you want to make sure and wipe your bike down. And, you need to be cautious of areas where there is ice on the roads. Just like cars and moving people, bike tires slide on ice too. A lesson I learned today.

Happy winter riding!

Snow, Snow, Look at the Snow!

 

copyright PD Eastman

Snow, snow,

Look at the snow!

Come out, come out,

Come out in the snow!

Yes, I have the first couple lines, as well as the rest of P.D. Eastman’s children’s book Snow memorized. Did you ever read it growing up? About the two children and their dog, and the snow? That book is high on my list of great children’s books, along with Go, Dogs, Go! It is a book which I’ll definitely read to my children. Whenever it snowed, my mother would read it to me. And, whenever she did, I had to be eating cottage cheese. Not plain either. Cottage cheese with Ranch Dressing. Odd, I know. But to the five year old, cottage cheese looks like snow (well, at least my five year old mind). At one point, and to a certain degree, snow was fun. Making snowmen, snow angels, going sledding, creating forts out of the snow. I’d spend hours outside all bundled up in a snowsuit like the pillsbury doughboy in the snow with my siblings. Such great fun. Looking straight up into the sky, mouth wide open, eyes tightly shut, waiting to taste the first couple snow flakes floating lazily from the sky, and then feeling the cool, slightly metallic flurry fall on your tongue and melt. We never had a snow day, but that did not matter. Snow was awesome.

As an almost-adult, I think my views of snow have changed. The Northeast has gotten slammed with snow storm after snow storm. I know kids must be ecstatic with snow days. But, its February, and I think I’m tired of the snow. It makes life more complicated, especially when your vocation does not allow you to have snow days. Yes, good news for you: hospitals stay open through all types of weather. As the hospital’s nursing supervisor said the other night, “You don’t become a nurse in the Northeast if you are a wuss and afraid to drive in the snow.” Actually, if you don’t like driving in the snow, you should just stay away from this area.Period. Snow seems to makes everything difficult driving on snowy, poorly plowed roads can be rough, even with four-wheel drive. Shoveling a maze to your front door–which, we all have learnt–is very hazardous. Businesses close down which you really needed to stay open, such as the gym or pool, because training for races does not stop.

But, in retrospect, there have been good things that have come out of one of the worst New York winter’s that the state has had for a long time (of course, the first winter I’ve spent living in an almost 100 year old farm house alone, too).  When not having to work, and not spending excessive hours on the trainer, the blizzard conditions gave me the opportunity to snuggle up under a blanket with a cup of tea and read. It gave me the excuse to visit and catch up with good friends (yes, I decide to visit people in almost blizzard conditions–but there were also homemade cookies involved). On that note, there is not as much traffic on the road, because all the smart people decided to stay inside. It gives you a greater appreciation for grass, or anything else that is not covered in snow. It reminded me that there are genuinely friendly, helpful people still out there, as evidenced by my new best friend, Walt, an 80-something year old man at the Nursing home who came out of his warm car during the blizzard to help me clear off the snow that had accumulated on my truck before heading to work.I’m pretty sure he actually felt sorry for me and my pathetic attempts to clear the truck…And, I kid you not, his name is Walter, but “All his friends call him Walt for short.”

Still, despite good things that can come out of the weather of ours, I think I might be ready for spring to come. Soon. Like, tomorrow.

When was the last crazy post written?

February 2011
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