When my wife was pregnant with our triplets, she was placed on bed rest at week 27 due to the onset of significant (and frequent) contractions. The situation was extreme enough to warrant a stay in the hospital where a number of tactics were employed in an effort to stabilize the contractions, including a mag drip and a terbutaline pump. And they both did the trick as her contractions went way down. Which is why, after a week in the hospital, Caroline’s doctor let her go home. She would remain on bed rest, but she’d be at home. Which was great.
Of course, that meant I essentially became her nurse. Which was… not so great.
And the first time this nurse was tested was when he was called upon to change out Caroline’s terbutaline port. Though I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a medical expert, I am astute enough to realize that piercing the flesh of a woman pregnant with triplets — and who is therefore hopped up on dangerous levels of estrogen — has a very limited upside especially when compared to the unlimited downside that accompanies such a thankless task. Still, a job is a job, and it was time for me to perform, but not without Caroline getting in one final request.
“You have to be very careful.”
“I will be. Could you hand me the booklet, please?” I said, referring to the pamphlet which detailed how, exactly, to change out the port.
“No. I’m not done with them yet.”
“But you don’t need them. You’re not the one attaching the port.”
“I know,” she said, “but I’m the one overseeing the procedure. Plus, I’m the one you’re sticking it in.”
“Oh, Caroline. You and your double entendres. Just give me the booklet, please.”
“Fine,” she said, throwing it toward me, “but do you think you can do this as well as that woman who taught us how to use the pump?”
“You mean the one who trained you for an hour that last afternoon in the hospital?”
“Yes, that one.”
“I doubt it.”
“And why not?”
“Because not only am I unable to lecture about the topic for an hour,” I said as I tossed the booklet aside. “I can’t even read about this crap for a minute.”
I turned off the pump and ejected the existing vial of terbutaline, which meant it was then safe to pull out the port. “Here I go,” I warned.
“WAIT! The booklet said we need a place to put the old port.”
I grabbed the bottle of water Caroline held in her hands, unscrewed the cap and poured its contents down my throat. “Presto. One used port container.”
“Doesn’t it need to be labeled or something? It’s a biohazard, you know.”
“How negligent of me,” I said, reaching for a sharpie on the table before me. With it, I crossed out Aquafina and wrote BIOHAZARD just beneath it. “Now, will you quit stalling?”
“I’m not stalling.”
“Then let me take out your port and put it in the BIOHAZARD bottle, will you?”
“Fine,” she said, offering up her left thigh.
On the count of three I ripped it off like a band-aid.
“OUCH,” she screamed. “That hurt.”
“Shhh, not now,” I said. “I’m handling toxic-waste, you know.” Once the biohazard was safely jammed inside the erstwhile water container, I dabbed a cotton swab with alcohol and wiped away the circular remnant of sticky adhesive that the underside of the port had left on Caroline’s leg while Caroline examined her other thigh to find the perfect spot for the new port.
Once she found her location, she wiped it down with alcohol while I got the new port out of its container. I peeled back the adhesive and grabbed the designated area of her thigh between my left them and index finger, gently raising the skin and turning it 45 degrees. “On three. Ready?”
She nodded yes, though the grimace on her face suggested otherwise.Three seconds later, I was thanked by the following:
“OUCH! That was horrendous!”
“I’m sorry, honey. I did my best.” I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d really been that bad or whether the hospital nurses had gotten off easy because they didn’t happen to be married to the patient.
“How long before you have to change it again?” Caroline asked.
“The booklet said every three to five days.”
“Let’s make it five.”
It was the only thing we agreed upon that entire day.