I was not too happy with her at first. After-all, when I was so terribly thirsty I really just wanted some water.
Susan, my nurse at Toronto General, would have no part of it. “I will give you some ice chips, Stacey”, she conceded in her motherly Jamaican accent. “But you cannot have any water until your bowels are working.”
I was thirsty. I didn’t want to hear those words. I was desperate for a sip of water – just a sip! I knew, however, that I had no choice but to heed her advice. She was my nurse and I knew better than to question her. My Mom had taught me that at a young age. I thought I knew what was right in terms of my health – until she taught me better.
Still, I was thirsty! “I’ll just load up on ice, then”, I thought. And so every time my cup was half-empty, I requested a re-fill – which I got. It took a lot of effort, though, to chew through that ice to be able to get enough water to quench my thirst. Eventually, I discovered that if I left the ice long enough it would melt and provide me with enough water that I could actually “gulp”. Oh, my God – it was good. Who knew? This gulp become my new quest.
When Susan was on her break, I summoned over “Ivy” who was the nurse that relieved Susan. I was hopeful that I could scam a glass of water off of her. I was very sweet with my request – very pleasant – very pitiful. “I’ll just check with Susan,” she replied much to my chagrin since I knew the answer. Sure enough – Ivy came back with ice chips and the same response. “You shouldn’t drink water until your digestive tract is working. You are hooked up to fluids to keep you amply hydrated. Your body is not in any distress. It’s just that your brain is telling you that you are thirsty – it is instinctual. Don’t worry. You have lots of fluids in you. You only “think” you are thirsty. ”
That went in one ear and out the other. I heard Susan – but I didn’t listen. How could it be that I was okay when I was so clearly THIRSTY!!!! I obviously had to continue to scheme. What could I try next? I plotted and schemed and became like a wild animal in the quest for water.
When Kevin left to go that first night, I asked if he would get me some ice chips. I knew he’d get caught with water. Off he went – and when he returned I was thrilled to see that he had come back with a BIG glass of ice chips! This meant that I could leave this large glass to melt and eat the chips from the small glass the nurses filled up for me. Ha! How clever was I? Still – it took forever.
Later that night – there was another shift and of course, who in their right mind would not try to scam some water. “Please”, I so politely requested. “Could I have a glass of water?” Again, I was sweet, pitiful, and innocent.
Again, I got a glass of ice chips – Susan had obviously left instructions. Argh! She was good. I could not win.
It must have been two days later when my begging worked – okay – my bowels were making noise. I got my glass of water. Susan, once again, was there with caution. “Don’t drink too much – if it won’t pass through one way, Stacey, it will come right back up.” Well – did I listen? Me? Water? No. Two glasses later, I confessed to Kevin that I was not feeling well. I think I should have heeded Susan’s advice. Susan overheard this comment and rushed to my side. “Are you okay? Did you drink too much?” She knew. “Do you need some anti-nausea meds?”
“Yes.” I confessed with great humility. Who knew you could become nauseated on water? (Susan knew)
I was hooked up to some meds and within moments I felt better.
Be rest assured that I was well behaved, non-scheming for the remainder of my stay at Toronto General. If they asked me to stand – I stood. If they asked me to walk – I walk. If they told me I needed medicine – I took it. I was hurdled back to my childhood when I was continually reminded that ‘mother – the nurse’ always knew best when it came to my health.
My recovery at Toronto General was quick. I had such great care. I loved the student doctors and nurses who were so obviously passionate about learning about medicine and it seemed their approach was very people-focused. I had no infection – I had no pain – I never felt I was alone. My nurses were there whenever I needed them and I felt fortunate to be living in a county where healthcare was at such a high standard.
I reflect on this lesson often and think how silly I was to think I was so sneaky to try to get a sip of water and how when I finally got water – I got sick. The nurses knew I would. I’m obviously not the first person to drink too much water after surgery. What made me think I was so very different that I needed not heed their advice? The nurses are the ones in the trenches of health-care and I am/ was merely a passer-by. And as a passer-by I needed to trust they knew more than I. How many other “Stacey’s” with that same attitude pass through Toronto General every day? How many times do nurses have to face uncooperative (because we don’t know any better but think we do) patients who condescend and demand things that the nurses know are unreasonable? Those nurses need the patience of Job! I thank God they were so patient with me and that I learned my lesson of trust so early in my hospital stay.