The frozen wasteland surrounding our encampment occasionally gives way to thaw before freezing over again. Travel is difficult, and the options for nutrition within the building are especially bleak. Still, if one can brave the icy wind, the nearby “Center” has an amazing 1/4 pound burger & fries special for only $6, on Mondays.
The patients here are starting to memorize my name, and have taken to including me in their plaintive cries for help, every hour on the hour. It is a rite of passage, I’m told, to have one or more of the patients claim you as their particular gateway into their doctor or clinician of choice. Of course, none of us has any more power than any other of us, for the ways of doctors and prescribing nurses are mysterious, but the patients do not understand the hierarchy established here, or do not want to.
Also, the option to “leave a voice mail” confuses the hell out of several members of the community, and not a few members of staff.
My nurses have gathered around me, one at a time, each of them, all day, asking: “What is wrong with you? Are you sick? You look feverish; do you have a fever?” When I reply that yes, I am sick, and have been since this weekend, they reply as one: “Why are you here then?” When I tell them that we’ve been short staffed since last week and if I didn’t come in, there’d be no one in administration on the whole floor, they sigh, and nod, and drift away.
It has become clear that as certain staff have aged, grown closer to retirement, they have grown more forgetful, or less interested in the minutia of our positions. They leave the vital tasks to those of us newer to this expedition, and instead amuse themselves with glossy magazines. I have made a pact with Laura, who began shortly before I did, that — should we begin to fade as our elders have — we end it all. Together.
Have I mentioned that I am ill? The fever confuses me, but still, I soldier on.
The other members of the expedition have a variety of dietary restrictions which make the sharing of a meal or simple treat into a monumental sorting effort. A great many refuse to partake of gluten, or wheat, or sugar, or fats. However, when I bring in desserts baked (with great care!) from home, suddenly everyone can indulge in “just a nibble” and the food disappears.
One woman, wise beyond her years and greatly experienced in the ways of this place, advises me not to come in again tomorrow if I am still sick. When I protest that such an action would leave us virtually undefended from the onslaught of phone calls and influx of patients seeking relief from their ailments, she replied, “But you can’t think like that. It’s not your problem.”
“It’s not your problem.” Wise words, indeed.