The Operation

I was standing next to my unconscious patient, when it happened. Grey dots gathered; blurring my vision. Breathe, I told myself. I knew I needed to let the others know what was happening, but I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even slide down to the floor. All I could do was to hold on to the operating table. Everything went black.

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Anyone fancy a makeover? 

And you would think I passed out. But I didn’t. No, instead I was caught in this strange inbetween. I was completely powerless, but I could still hear the nurses and doctors talking. I couldn’t make out the words they were saying, but I held on to their voices. I was not going to become the student that fainted before the operation even started.

Eventually one of them noticed that I had gone white as snow. I was placed in a chair, and up my legs went. My ears were ringing, and I was blinking like crazy. Blind as blind can be. Slowly, ever so slowly, the world came back to me. I could make out “you’re not the first one.” Gradually, shadows replaced darkness, and grey figures replaced shadows.

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I sat outside for several minutes afterwards, watching my feet.

I can’t explain why it happened. Perhaps it was the new smells. Perhaps it was the face-mask. Perhaps it was my sky-high expectations. I’d been looking forward to the operation for so long – imagine how I felt when I messed up so early on. I was scared they wouldn’t let me come back in. However, after dutifully drinking several glasses of juice, they did.

And for the five and a half hours the operation took – I actually enjoyed myself immensely.

The Children’s Ward

In our second year, nursing students are assigned to a ward for two months. I received the children’s ward. This is my fourth week working there. It is exciting, it is educational, and at times it is funny – but overall I can’t say that it is fun.

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At the entrance of the ward – A snake.

We laugh, we play, we run around – children and personnel alike. However, that is only one part of it. The next might consist of pain that I can’t relieve, and of tears that I can’t dry. I can go from one room, where all is well in the world, to another, where the world seems at a standstill – about to end.

I love children – love their innocence, free spirit and unfiltered minds. I love working with them. Except for when they’re very, very sick. I find it difficult to hold such tiny hands in mine, and feel them getting colder. Perhaps one adapts after a longer amount of time, and learns how to handle it better.

Aside from the hurt I experience, and the contrast of moving back and forth between getting better and getting worse – this is still a month I will look back on and appreciate. I have learned a lot of things – even if one of them is that I might not be cut out to work with this age group.

The Exam

The examinator called my name and I stepped up. “The assignment is to change the stoma and teach the patient how to do so himself.” I was overjoyed. Over the last few weeks I’ve spent hours upon hours practicing the different tasks we could receive, and this one I felt confident in.

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My patient ❤

The exam began. And it went wrong from the beginning. Suddenly I couldn’t remember the order of things. Suddenly I couldn’t explain my actions. I drew a complete blank on the first two questions she asked me. My pulse quickened. My breathing became shallow. Nothing about my hands resembled the firm, yet gentle, touch of a nurse.

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With real patients I’ve never wavered. But with this doll? My hands were shaking.

“Tell the patient what you’re thinking,” the examinator said. Our eyes met. I didn’t need her to say it out loud to know what she was thinking. I refused to give up though. I struggled onward and made awkward conversation with the doll. It went a little bit better, but not nearly good enough. The last minutes were miserable ones.

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I’m sorry for the awful treatment this time, but at least you know that I know better.

The nerves really got the better of me this time. What’s worse, I can tell you exactly where I went wrong. When push came to shove I choked – I couldn’t show my knowledge when it mattered. Have any of you ever experienced something similar? If you haven’t, be glad, because it downright sucks.

If we were having tea…

Because I don’t drink coffee. But I do have so much to tell you.

It’s been several weeks since I suddenly stopped posting (again). I’m back in Norway, back in school, and have already had my first exam. In two weeks I have another. Ususally we have our exams at the end of the semester, but the second year Nursing students will spend months at the hospital, so the idea is to get the exams out of the way.

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The days are becoming shorter and shorter, but feel longer and longer.

I don’t blog that much about it, but studying Nursing is hard. In this week alone we have done (on each other): peripheral venous catheter, sub q pain pump, several different injections, and nasogastric tube. There’s been a lot of blood. Suffice to say, I’m tired at the end of the day.

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It took a couple of tries, but everyone finally found a vein!

Despite the struggle, I’m happy. I’ve started dancing again, I’m spending more time with the people I care about, and ultimately doing more of the things that I love. I just often find myself exhausted. I wish I had more energy to blog. I haven’t even answered all of your amazing comments. I have read them though, and appreciated Every. Single. One.

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Thanks for sticking with me through it all!

Lastly, I just want to wish you well. Feel free to tell me about what you’ve been up to since I’ve been gone! And if you’ve had a bad week, remember it’s almost Friday. It’s almost Friday!

The Cardiac Medical Ward

It’s me again. Still alive.

If you wonder where I’ve been; I’ve spent the last month in the cardiac medical ward. As an employee, thankfully. I got a summer job as an assistant. I’ve learned a great deal, and I’ve never been more sure of my choice of studying nursing.

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However, it’s only now I fully realize what I’ve gotten myself into. Picture walking into a room, and wonder if the person there is breathing. Picture having a pleasant conversation, and it suddenly turns into “can you hear me? Hey, are you still with me?” and an emergency team. At all times, two heartbeats may turn to one.

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The absence of a heartbeat is the loudest silence I’ve ever heard.

Now, don’t misunderstand me, most of the time everything turns out okay. One evening might be about her heartbeat slowing and mine racing, but the next morning it’ll be like it never happened, and we go back to me saying “bear with me, I’m sure I’ll figure out how to change ECG/EKG paper eventually…” and she replying “I remember being a student, oh those were the days…”

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This picture is from the basement. Want to guess how many times I got lost down here?

In Norway, it takes three years to become a nurse. In the fall I start my second year. It’s still a long road in front of me, but what an adventure. And at this moment, I see only green lights ahead.

 

A student, but a Blogger

I can’t believe that it’s already been two months since school started. I can’t believe that it’s just 10 weeks to my last exam. Time passes by so quickly, too quickly, and there’s so much to learn. There’s so much to experience.

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Such as watching Zombie-walks!

I underestimated the difficulty of nursing studies. I never thought it would be easy, but I never thought it would be this difficult either. When I started I was prepared for having to read a lot, but I didn’t foresee my own reaction to several of the topics. I didn’t foresee my own need to feel good at what I’m going to work with in the future. I need to know that my patients will be as good taken care of in my hands as they would be in my colleagues’.

By what you just read you would think I spend all my time reading. However, I have a great deal of fun too. Probably more than I should. I love the freedom of being on my own. I love solving all the minor problems that pop up. I love making my own mistakes, even the ones I said I’d never do.

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Rumor has it I washed something red with my light-colored clothes…

Blogging and studying is getting problematic, but as I still love to interact with you; to share and receive – I’ll continue doing it anyway. I think there will be more picture-posts in the future though, and maybe I’ll post more seldom. I hope you are all well and enjoying your everyday!

Matters of the Heart

Warning: This post contains a real heart.

I dissected a heart this week. It’s strange how this fist-sized pump keeps us alive. Lubb-dupp. Lubb-dupp. An avarage of 72 beats per minute. Lubb-dupp, lubb-dupp. It smells bad and looks nothing like the drawings I drew as a child.

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Have you ever listened to your own heartbeat? It’s surreal. 

The circulatory system is one of my favorite chapters so far (#NursingStudent). Genetics was fun too, but this is different. Its complexity is overwhelming: veins and arteries, electric signals and the bloodstream working perfectly together. One abnormality away from falling apart.

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Beware who you give your heart to – it’s the most precious thing you’ve got.

Lubb-dupp. To me, heartbeats are like music. It can be as pleasant as the laughter of someone you love, or as horrible as their screams. When you listen to a healthy heart it is calming, when you listen to a sick one – your own heart beats faster, as if it can help the sick one pump.

After a vacation comes…

Work. If you travel a lot like me, chances are you do one of two things: you work sporadically or you work for months (and months) and travel as far as the money goes. The first option suits me well, so this year I’ve worked on and off, on and off. At times that can be really stressful.

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And really wet…

I’m a health worker in the home care division. I visit people in their homes to help them with their daily needs and check that everything’s okay. Sometimes it’s a quick visit to deliver medicine, other times I help the patient take a shower or get to bed. In Norway this service is free and provided by the different municipalities.

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One of my first days at work, so stoked to be wearing a uniform!

It’s a pretty cool job. I get to explore my own city while doing something useful. I’m always up to date on the latest hits (can’t drive around without music!) and elderly people tell the most amazing stories.

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Plus I see sundowns I normally wouldn’t if I had been at home. 

Most of the time I don’t mind that it’s hard work, both physically and mentally. When I first started, last year, my worst fear was to connect with someone and then find them dead. I can’t tell you how many times I have entered a new home, called hello and had no answer. Often it’s because they don’t hear me though, thankfully.

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What I do mind is that my coworkers seldom do this, but someone has to…

Now, the downside. At the beginning of each day, we each get a list of patients we are to visit. We get a time to be there and how long it’s advised to stay. The list is not in order, so I have to figure out myself who to visit fist. I’ve been as much as an hour late; my patient was very impatient.

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A smile goes a long way. So does “I’m so, so, sorry” and “I’m new…”

The more you work, the more you get to know the different lists and patients. It becomes easier to calculate and deal with unforseen situations. Working on and off like me prevents me from this, as patients always come and go. But hey, at least I learn to deal with stress! And during the hardest of days, I remember that dream I have. The one of traveling the world.

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Some day I’ll see elephants again. Photo taken through binoculars.

Jet lag and Homesickness

People often ask me about homesickness. Being so far from home, for a long period of time, don’t I miss my family? My friends? The answer is simple – of course I do. The first few days of the volunteer project in Cairns were clouded by jet lag and homesickness. However, when I say homesickness, I don’t mean it in the sense that I want to go home, it’s more of a wish for my home to come to me. I miss the security; the comfort of having someone to lean on. Tired and feeling out of sorts, it’s strange how much bigger small problems become. I thought that it would be easier this time, to adapt and adjust. After all, how difficult could Australia be after Namibia? The culture is more similar to my own, and I live in the city instead of far, far away from civilization. Immersing yourself in a new culture; perhaps it’s never easy – no matter if you have done it once, or a hundred times before.

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The first few days I just wanted to sleep. It was such a comfort to me to Skype with my family, write my friends and see all of your positive comments on the post about my first impressions of Australia.

I find it funny, how the things that challenge me the most about traveling – new people, norms, surroundings, figuring out stuff on my own – are also the things that I love the most. What would traveling be without them? We could all do without the jet lag, but I would never wish to be without the homesickness. I believe that every traveler that misses home is a lucky one, because it means that her home most likely misses her too.

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Home is where the heart is, therefore I am lucky, because I have a whole lot of homes.

The Tragedy at Johannesburg Airport

Picture this: you’ve just arrived at Johannesburg airport after flying in from London (an 11 hour flight), you’re super excited although you almost didn’t sleep, and you walk around with your eyes wide open – determined to take everything in.
Wow, airport security is much nicer here compared to Heathrow, you think.
And what a cool way of dressing, you countinue. Okay, find gate A23, the flight to Namibia isn’t leaving in awhile, but it doesn’t hurt to know where I’m going, right?

But when you follow the signs toward A23 and step around a corner you meet a scene that makes you forget about your next flight. A man is lying on the floor, screaming, clutching the hand of a woman. She’s not moving. Around them a group of people have formed. They’re staring, some visibly upset, some with a morbid curiosity. Why is no one helping the couple? What’s going on? Is help on the way?
You approach two women, a mother and daughter. The latter is crying and the mother is looking around, wondering the same as you – where is the help, and when is it comming?
“what happened?” you ask.
“she, she just collapsed.” the mother answers.
“is she breathing?”
The daughter shakes her head. Stunned you turn back to the couple. Just then another traveler arrives at the scene. He’s not a doctor, but he clearly knows what he is doing. He starts doing CPR, finds a bag with instruments. You know nothing he does will help if real doctors don’t show up. She needs a heartstarter. And she needs it now.

I have never seen the Bystander Effect before. I have heard of it, but never thought I would end up in the middle of it. This shouldn’t be possible. The right people should have been there within minutes, it’s a freaking airport! But it took 15 minutes. One showed up. Then it took 10 more before “the boss” came. And finally, 5 minutes later, the heartstarter arrived.

What kind of world is this?