Saturday, March 11, 2017

Overfunctioning

Thursday afternoon I went to interview with Delia, Jodie (my supervisor from Unit One), and a doctor and a social worker from the palliative care service. We talked for about 25 minutes. When I left, Delia gave me a warm hug. Later Jodie saw me and Monica and said, smiling, that we could both expect good news. The next morning we got an email of congratulations which said I will be the palliative care chaplain intern in Unit Three and Monica will do it in Unit Four. We had discussed between ourselves which units we preferred, and this is what we wanted. I like the idea of doing this right away, because then I can use what I learn in my final unit, and also because I’m impatient.

Jodie said we are probably going to like the pace, since the palliative care service has 20 patients or fewer total. And they stay for days or weeks, so I will get a break of a couple of months from the sense of a torrent of patients constantly rushing toward and past me. Properly, I should start this next Monday, but Delia is away the week after that, so I’m going to start on March 27. I wish I didn’t have to miss the two weeks, but it’s not the end of the world.

I’ve had extremely good luck when it comes to getting a full night of sleep while on call, but Thursday night was horrible. I was paged four different times between midnight and 5 a.m., one of which was a Code Blue, and then there were two more Code Blues the next morning, about 7:30 and 9:00. One patient—at 3:47 a.m., if I may mention it—wanted to discuss an annoying symptom she’s having. But she was a very dear person, so I wasn’t mad at her.

I think a lot of people don’t realize that we work a 24-hour shift when we’re on call. They probably assume that we have day shifts and night shifts just like they do. We can gently educate people one-on-one as the occasion arises, but staff members come and go constantly, and we don’t want to do mass emails on the subject, since we do want people to use spiritual care services.

So that was a horrible night in terms of sleep. Fortunately, Friday was pretty quiet. I went to see my friend from the soup kitchen, who finally had been released from the ICU and was that day on a neurological unit. I had decided that morning that I was clearly overfunctioning in regard to her, and I sent Sam, who is the chaplain for the neurological unit, a note saying that maybe I would just visit a couple of times a week and otherwise leave her in his capable hands.

As it turned out, she was sent to rehab today, or at least that was the plan. I was there when the nurse told her that only one place had accepted her. She is often belligerent and stubborn, and when she heard which hospital she’d be going to for rehab, she said, “Oh, no. Definitely not. They tried to kill me there!” I told her that if she wants to be independent and autonomous again, going to rehab is a crucial step, and this was her one option. I hope and trust that someone was able to talk her into being transported over there today.

She clearly didn’t understand that this meant she wouldn’t be seeing me again—schlepping over to another hospital to see her when I rarely even have time to have a burrito with a friend would definitely be overfunctioning—and I didn’t have the heart to state it baldly, though it’s likely she would have forgotten it right away, anyway. I told her I’ll call the other hospital in a few days to see how she’s doing. I hope she’ll be all right. She was a difficult person to get along with even before receiving a serious brain injury.

This morning I got up after a refreshing 11 hours and 10 minutes of sleep. It was a beautiful summery day here, well deserved after an astronomical amount of rain and weeks of unseasonably chilly weather. I went to Sam’s ordination as a Zen priest at the Hartford Street Zen Center. A whole bunch of his friends showed up, and the ceremony was very nice
long but leavened by the abbot’s droll sense of humor. It was moving to see Sam in his robes. 

I introduced myself to about 20 people, one of whom turned out to be a palliative care doctor at the Truly Wonderful Medical Center, so I will probably encounter her at work one of these days. Two of my fellow students were there, two of our supervisors, a staff chaplain, and one of our admins, with her partner. My friend Karen was also there, and afterward she and I took a walk, went to a couple of Tibetan shops in the Castro, and had lunch at a Chinese place on 18th St.
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