Tag Archives: operational stress

Loose Thoughts: Can Somebody Tell Me What Sleep is and Why the Old Crap? Why not New Crap?

bean church 1 Mr Bean Trying to Stay Awake in Church.  I can Really Relate See the video at

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7178785146631188901&ei=UthpSvKcCpv-qAOCyJAd&q=mr+bean+in+church&hl=en

Tuesday and Wednesday were days where the old Crap both my own life and others kept rising to the top.  My current and crap, which in reality is my old crap move to the present are my PTSD related issues or maybe it’s the whole damned subscription.  My stuff came up, because as Elmer the Shrink says that they have been suppressed by my brain and get dredged up by stuff that triggers them.  Thus it is kind of involuntary, something that I hate.  I am a deliberate and logical person and I don’t like this stuff coming up and screwing with my life, which right now is pretty busy and stressful.

Tuesday night I had the “privilege” of getting two and a half hours of sleep after a great seminar on Caregiver Operational Stress management and intervention.  I was proud of myself.  I actually got through an entire daylong seminar without an immediate PTSD meltdown during the seminar.  That last three times I have attended classes or seminars dealing with things related to or that touch on my stuff it has been like a old pitcher who has seen better days getting chased from the mound at Yankee Stadium in the first inning giving up 7 runs without recording an out.   Tuesday it was hard but it was like getting a complete game and the win.  This was a big accomplishment for me as I have not been able to do this since before I went to Iraq.  However, the subject matter did kick up a bunch of my stuff from Iraq and getting to sleep was really; I mean really fun….not.   To use the old pitcher metaphor I may have got the win but my arm and body need some time to recover, only instead of the arm and body it is by pea-brain. So Tuesday I didn’t get to bed until 2:30 AM and was back up at 5:00 AM so I could come to work and take the duty for the house in addition to my regular duties.

Now I don’t mind having duty, especially at night when I get a chance to round through our hospital wards and spend time with staff, especially the folks in the various ICUs and units that are not part of my daily routine. Yesterday I had a couple of meetings today, a long one in the morning and a couple in the afternoon.  The last meeting was like one of those afternoon classes that I dreaded back in college and seminary;  the kind that I took because I was either working or wanted to sleep late, but which kicked my ass.  One time in seminary the “Z Monster” grabbed me after eating a big burger at lunch before going to class.  That afternoon in Philosophy of Religion the Professor, Dr. Yandall Woodfin, decided to enlighten us with a slide show of various art masterpieces and the religious and or philosophical meanings that could be ascribed to them, I think there were several slide trays of them as this was in the technological dark ages before Power Point poisoning.  I was sitting in the front row, my desk almost under Dr. Woodfin’s nose just slightly to the left of the slide carousel.  The lights were turned low so we could see the pictures better and the temperature was just warm enough in the classroom to  make me even more sleepy.  As all the blood in my body rushed from my brain to my burger locker I began to struggle to stay awake.  It was like Mr. Bean trying to stay awake in church http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-7178785146631188901&ei=UthpSvKcCpv-qAOCyJAd&q=mr+bean+in+church&hl=en I was fighting hard but the “Z Monster” won.  I was doing the “bob, jerk and sleep” for about 20 minutes when finally catastrophe hit.  I flipped my desk; it was a rollover accident without a roll bar, but it was amazing that I did not hurt myself and just how fast I recovered.  I had that desk righted and had my ass back in it before anyone knew what hit them. My fellow students tried to restrain their laughter as the unflappable Dr Woodfin kept the lecture going without missing a beat.  I don’t know if it was years of training or the fact that he was in his “teaching zone” but his focus was amazing as he showed absolutely no distraction by my roll over.

I had similar experiences in other academic and military settings, but while I may have fallen out of my seat I never again flipped a desk.    However today was tough.  I had been pumping myself with caffeine all day long and evidently it was not having the desired effect. I got to the NOD (Nurse of the Day) meeting where the on call people meet with representatives of the nursing units to get an idea what is going on in the hospital at large.  Today I took my seat and the “Z Monster” showed his well disguised face and zapped me.  Pretty soon I was fighting to stay awake.  I was pinching myself, shrugging my shoulders, sucking down my Coke Zero just to stay awake, a couple of times I caught myself about to fall forward in my chair, thankfully I didn’t snore…yes I have done that in meetings or classes too.  When the meeting ended I was more than happy.  I slowly rose from my chair, shook myself out and downed the last of my Coke Zero.  When I got back onto the ICU I got second wind and was good the rest of the evening, made all of my rounds and finally feeling that things were okay for the night trundled off to the chaplain call room to try to sleep.  I got in the bed, pulled the threadbare hospital sheets and too small blankets over me, arranged the flat pillows so they resembled a real pillow turned off the lights and close my eyes.  Unfortunately though my body was toast my brain did not want to turn off, it was like the brain had a mind of its own and was going to keep my body up even though my body was saying “Oh God let me sleep.”  I was so tired that I couldn’t even write myself to sleep like I normally do. Even my entreaties to the Deity Herself seemed to go unanswered, so a laid there, turned on the television and surfed the paltry selection of channels that Mordoc the Preventer of Information contracted to get finally flipping between late night talk show hosts on the major networks other than Conan O’Brien I didn’t know who the majority of these guys were, one of them who followed Conan started kissing the camera in the middle of his monologue.  I rapidly changed channel as that was frightening.  Finally about 2:30, which must be the new 11:30 for me, I drifted off to sleep to be awakened by the 0600 test of our Code Blue response pager.  I did my duty turnover, pumped myself full of caffeine checked on the ICU and PICU, visited some patients, consulted the staff, answered some hot e-mail and calls regarding our incoming Pastoral Care Residents and realized that my body was starting to tell me that I was done.  I trudged down to our main office, sat down with the boss who asked why I was still at work, discussed a couple of issues with him and got sent home where I kissed Judy, pet the dog and threw my ass in bed.  I feel slightly more human now and pray that the sleep I got this afternoon does not mess up going to sleep tonight.

bean church two

While thinking about how my old crap was exhumed by the class, something that Elmer the Shrink says that my brain has been suppressing, I got an e-mail from a pastor who has syndicated opinion column for a number of newspapers here in the USA.  The guy used to write some pretty good stuff that was encouraging, inspiring and occasionally thought provoking.  But something has changed and his articles have become often become almost venomous.  I guess that he’s really angry about something, probably Obama and the Democrats.  I understand that that is his right as a citizen, there are a lot of people unhappy with the President and Congress, my mother is one of them.  I talk to my mother almost daily almost and for eight years she bitched about Bush and the Republicans and now she is bitching about Obama and the Democrats, but she represents herself, she is not a pastor, she holds no church or public office and thus can do whatever she wants.

Anyway this pastor chose to write an article full of anger and poisonous invective, but not at anything happening now.  He chose to dig up old crap with no relevance to the Gospel, or to anything that is happening now.  He chose to write about a doctoral seminar that he attended several years ago. He discussed a situation where a non-US citizen pastor of an American church in a graduate program was criticizing the USA as a major source of the world’s problems.  Now I might take offense if someone did that, I would defend my country and I might depending on the situation confront him during or after the class.  However, this chose to drag this up when it seems totally irrelevant to anything going on now.  I really don’t think that anyone is concerned about how a foreign pastor pissed this minister off years ago. People are scarred spitless of the Commie North Koreans, Iranian nukes, Pakistani nukes, the expanding war in Afghanistan, the price of gas, the economy and a hundred other very real crisis’s.  But this pastor decided to tell how a long time ago he responded in a class to a guy who dared to criticize the USA.  But this wasn’t the worst of it, this guy ended the column with a particularly acidic comment that was like cup of “America Love it or Leave It” with a shot of Drano.  There was no redemptive point to the article; there was no humor, no spiritual lesson, just a very angry and bitter screed about something that happened in a classroom among a bunch of doctoral students which happened four years ago at the height of the insurgency in Iraq.  I did not think that the article was befitting of him and hope that his ministry is not filled with stuff like this as it is poison.  Like Drano it will clean you out, but it will leave you empty inside.  If this were an isolated occurrence with this pastor I would chalk it up to him having a bad day, but he is trending this way and I’m afraid that if he continues to do so he will hurt his church and the broader Christian church by becoming identified more with a political message than his faith.  In fairness I don’t know what caused him to write the article, maybe something triggered him and caused this to kick in.  I do want to be fair to him.  I do plan on discussing the matter with him because I actually do care.

Now I’m sure that there are people who think that I’m full of crap too, and I’m okay with that, because I know that I have issues and rough edges and sometimes push the envelope.  At the same time I do try to find a point of contact in the present and write, even when I am critical of a person or institution.  I do not believe that anyone or any institution is totally bad or good, even people that I disagree with are like broken clocks, they are right twice a day.

I hope to sleep tonight and I hope none of my old Crap or anyone else’s old Crap shows up tonight. Unfortunately Crap tedns to rise to the surface.

Peace, Steve+

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Filed under iraq,afghanistan, leadership, Loose thoughts and musings, philosophy, PTSD, Religion

Mid-Week Review-The Loss of a Shipmate, Hospital Duty is Not Easy and No Rational Thought Goes Unpunished

Today has been tough, actually it began yesterday.  We lost a dear shipmate this week. Hospital Corpsman Chief Pam Branum passed away while deployed on the USNS Comfort while on a humanitarian deployment.  She was the Leading Chief Petty Officer for our Critical Care Department, a great leader, genuinely nice person, and dear friend to many in our department.  She was passionate about her work and her people.  She set high standards for herself and worked hard to make sure that her Corpsmen were trained and became good not only what they do, but to help develop them as leaders with character.  She supported the nursing staff that she worked with as a friend and mentor.  She was like a mom to a lot of our staff.  Her loss at the age of 41 was shocking.  This has been a tough year for us in the Medical Center, back in April we lost a 4th Year Medical Student who just in a few weeks would have become a physician and started his internship and residency here.  We have lost a number of other staff members, active duty and civilian since December.  When we lose them we lose part of our family.  Those who have never served in the military cannot fully fathom how losses like this affect the rest of us.  I will be working with our staff and helping to plan Chief’s memorial service and maybe depending on the location the funeral.  Chief Branum will be sorely missed, I am still somewhat in shock.  Please keep her family, friends and co-workers in your prayers.  A link to the Blog of the Executive Officer of the USNS Comfort is here:   http://comfort-xo.blogspot.com/2009/06/thank-you-chief-may-you-rest-in-peace.html?showComment=1244112525886#c1602797664780974312

Another aspect of this difficult year is the number of our military staff being deployed.  Our “deployers” support current operations in Iraq, the Gulf, Horn of Africa and the Afghanistan surge.  Many have already been deployed, are getting ready to do so or are waiting for word.  Many have made other combat deployments in Iraq either with the Marines, Expeditionary Medical Facilities and Shock and Trauma units.  Sometimes they are sent on joint assignments helping train Afghan and Iraqi medical personnel.  Additionally they do humanitarian work in the combat zones in cooperation with Army and Air Force medical personnel.  Some of these Sailors have lost their lives after leaving home and the supposed security of a hospital assignment.  It is sometimes frustrating to listen to those who do not work in a place like this refer to hospital duty as easy.  Our clinicians deal with life and death every day here and are called upon to deploy at a moment’s notice.   They fight for life every day and sometimes when things go badly are as traumatized by the events as people in combat.  It’s hard to watch someone die or suffer and realize that sometimes you can’t win.  There are deaths, especially of children that I cannot get out of my head and I know from my relationships with physicians and nursing staff that they also have similar experiences.   Programs are being developed to help people before they become victims of operational stress, but these are just getting off the ground.  Please keep these heroes in your prayers.

I think today I was also a victim of my logical and reasonable brain.  I am now a declared enemy of at least one person in the anti-abortion movement.  I invested myself heavily the past three days in discussing the events of this weekend in Kansas.  I will not regurgitate this here, read those posts.  However there is something interesting.  I basically had someone comment that “they knew whose side I was on” and pretty much labeled me as someone who is not pro-life.  If they knew me they would know otherwise, but some people cannot take even constructive criticism of tactics and strategy.  Sorry but the confrontational strategy has not worked over a 30 year period and the escalation of rhetoric and violence will get the whole pro-life movement labeled as a domestic terrorist organization. Hell, even David Kupelian of the ultra conservative news site World Net Daily and I agree on this.

The guy who posted to my blog even used a line that was eerily reminiscent of Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men.  “What happened to the “doctor” was wrong, it probably saved hundreds of lives.”  (Comment on yesterday’s post) The person who wrote this has adopted an end’s versus means situational ethic to make the leap that the murder while wrong is okay because it stopped one person from doing abortions.  Unfortunately that strategy will not stop others from doing abortions and may very well in fact lead to the dismemberment of the legislative gains of the mainstream pro-life movement which guess what will happen?  It will lead to more abortions.  If you make your living by fighting abortion like Randall Terry does this is a good thing.  You won’t lack for work or money unless however you are doing time in a Federal penitentiary as a domestic terrorist.   That aside it means as long as abortion is legal you can keep drawing a paycheck to fight it.  That is the kind of thing that makes me suspicious of Mr. Terry’s motives.  You use the same tactics for 30 years without any real change to the situation and then say we have to keep doing this.  I have to wonder when I see this. Is Mr. Terry truly committed to life or is this a means to stay in the spotlight?  I’m not accusing, just wondering.  I have met Randall on a number of occasions, never by the way at any rally or event, and he can be charming.  Personally he seems like a good guy to go out and get a beer with and maybe even engage in spirited discussions. However, his actions have planted a seed of doubt in my mind about his motives.   If he is really committed to the pro-life cause of saving babies why does he stick with tactics that only drive potential supporters away from him?  He seems to me  like Generals in wars who decide to take some enemy strongpoint.  They make an attack and it fails and they continue to do so until they bleed themselves dry and eventually lose the battle.  The real progress in the right to life movement has not been through protest. Instead it has been through prayer, practical help to women in need and legislative efforts of pro-life men and women committed to working through legal means.  These people do not vilify thier opposite numbers but seek engagement and redemption and reconcilliation.    I made sure that I allowed the comment so others can see just how this mindset plays out when guys like this judge people on the pro-life who advocate less incendiary tactics.

Well I chased that rabbit for what it was worth.  Anyway, things with my family in California still are difficult. My dad continues to worsen, the insurance company has been a pain in the ass causing my mom and brother much grief.   I covet your prayers for them.  The hospital is very busy and I have a number of very sick patients that I am caring for their families, both adults and children.  Likewise, I will be trying to make sure that I care for my ICU staff and help them get through this period of shock, grief and loss.  There may be a possibility of activating our SPRINT team to assist sailors in the medical center or on the Comfort and this could make things even more interesting.

In the midst of this I still deal with my own stuff.  In times like this I get the “electrical current” sensation running through my body.  I become more edgy, hyper vigilant and at times anxious.  Sleep is still difficult.  However, this too I will get through.  I have completed day three in a 12 day “home-stand” at the hospital.  I’ll have duty this weekend.  At least the Tides are in town. I’m taking Judy to the game against Buffalo tonight.  While there I will be keeping an eye on the scoreboard to see if Randy Johnson will get his 300th career win pitching for the Giants aganst the Nationals.  Only 24 major league pitchers have reached this mark and only one is active, that being Tom Glavine.  I’ll post a game synopsis later.

Pray for me a sinner.

Peace, Steve+

Post Script: In spite of the threat of thunderstorm we got through the game with barely a sprinkle. The Tides beat the Bisons 5-3. Kam Mickolio got the win in relief and Jim Miler got his 13th Save.  Bobby Livingston pitched 7 shutout innings but went away with a no-decision.  Jolbert Cabrerra of the Tides hit a 2 run double in the bottom of the 8th to give the Tides the win.  The Tides improve to 35 and 17 and lead the Durham Bulls by a game and a half in the International League South,  Despite the loss of several pitchers as well as Outfielder Nolan Reimold and Catcher Matt Wieters to the Orioles the Tides with a bunch of AA promotions from the Bowie Baysox continue to win.  It is fun to see a team that plays in an organization that has a solid farm system.

Speaking of teams that don’t the Bison’s are now the AAA affiliate for the NY Mets.  They have the worst record in the International League. The Mets as they did in Norfolk have no hot prospects and many of their players are former major leaguers  The sad thing is that Buffalo under the Indians had a consistently good team. The city is not happy with the Mets.  Join the club Bison fans. It sucks to be the Mets AAA affiliate.

Second Post Script: The “Big Unit” Randy Johnson and the Giants had their game with the Nationals postponed by rain.  The game will be made up Thursday as a part of a double-header.  Johnson will get his chance for 300 tomorrow. Meanwhile the Braves released Tom Glavine. This could be the end of the line for the future Hall of Fame Pitcher.

Third Post Script:  The rain which held off throughout the game decided to hit after we got home. This happend to coincide with our little dog Molly’s trip to hunt for squirrels and do her evening business. She hates rain and started barking to be let back in.  The wet little dog got the payment of her cookie, gave us a good laugh and started playing with aplush toy fox that looks somewhat like her.  She is funny.

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Filed under alzheimer's disease, Baseball, ER's and Trauma, healthcare, iraq,afghanistan, Military, philosophy, Political Commentary, pro-life anti-abortion, PTSD, Religion