Three AM. The patients were sleeping, finally. The other 2 nurses on the unit were busy - one was reading the latest Anne Rice novel and the other was working on a counted cross-stitch project. This time of night was either feast or famine. Anything could happen, or nothing.
Rita had an odd feeling though. It wasn't a full moon (she had checked) and the 'shit magnet' night supervisor wasn't on duty. A quick call to the ER revealed an empty department except one kid with an ear infection. Most of the ER staff were involved in a game of poker using EKG leads for chips.
In her 8 bed critical care unit, only 6 were filled. Of the six, 5 were on vents and drugged into a stupor. But one had a guy that would actually be discharged in the morning. He was only still here because the floor didn't have a spot for him yesterday. He was youngish for this unit too - 44. The only family Rita had met were his folks. No wife, no kids. Danny had wondered aloud if he was gay, with a wink.
At 3:05 a code was called on the floor. Rita grabbed her stethoscope and headed for the door. The other 2 nurses put down their respective hobbies and did a quick check on the patients before getting one of the empty rooms ready for a new patient. Maybe.
Rita was back by 3:25. The old guy had been dead long enough to be cold. On the floor, unless someone hit a call light, the staff only went in every 4 hours for assessments. The poor gal who had found him had totally freaked out. She was greener than newly mowed grass. This was her first dead body. Rita left her to do the paperwork and morgue care - a learning experience.
Walking back into the unit, she gave the all clear to the other two nurses and they quickly returned to their own little worlds. Rita checked on Ralph, 86 year old with pneumonia on a vent. His family was of the 'save him at any cost' variety and so they were keeping him from his inevitable end. Sad from Rita's point of view. Next she headed into George's room. Now George was a whole different matter.
George was 44, in overall good health but had come into the ER with crushing chest pain a week ago. The heart attack hadn't been bad, but had required some intervention - a stent. He had come to her unit because the floor was full. Six hours after his cath, Rita had pulled his sheath. This required about 20 minutes of pressure on his femoral artery in his groin. She usually paid no attention to the other 'equipment' in the area, but in George's case this proved impossible. His endowments were quite spectacular. Rita was married but not dead!
That was 6 nights ago and tomorrow he was going home. He had recovered quite well and now that his blood pressure was stabilized he was completely out of danger. Rita went into his room and hit the automatic blood pressure to record a set of vitals.
'Good morning', George said, making her jump.
'I thought you were asleep. I'm sorry if I woke you.'
'You didn't. That damn alarm did and now I'm awake and hungry. Any chance of getting a bite to eat?'
'All I can offer is some ice cream or a Popsicle. We're not used to having people who can talk, much less eat!'
'Well, that's okay then. You busy? Maybe stay and talk for a few minutes?'
'Sure I can. I'm free until six unless that alarm goes off again or we get an admit. What do you want to talk about?'
'Actually, I have a really delicate question and I can't ask that day nurse, Danny. I think he's been looking at me like I'm a candy cane he wants to lick. He is gay, right?'
'Oh Danny is harmless, but you're probably right. Are you? Gay, I mean?'
'Oh, hell no! I mean, it's okay if he is but it's not my thing at all. Nope, I love women way too much. You're more my type.'
Rita blushed and was glad for the lowered lights in the room and the unit.
'I mean, I know you're married and all, but you have to know that you are a very beautiful woman, right? You are sexy as hell!' George shut up at that point and looked embarrassed. 'I can't believe I said that out loud. I am so sorry if I offended you, but I meant it as a compliment.'
'Um, thank you. I'm flattered - really I am - I don't hear that much and yes, I take that as a compliment. But, um, let's get back to your question, alright? What do you want to know?'
'I need to know my limitations. Um, sexually. Am I going to be okay having sex? I mean, I don't want to be going when I'm coming, if you get my drift?'
Rita tried not to laugh, but when he grinned at her, she couldn't help it. She heard this question frequently and there was a standard answer. Somehow it wasn't going to work with George though. Usually, the guy was quite a bit older and married. So, getting her giggling under control, she decided on a different course.
'Let me ask a few questions of my own first. One, just how sexually active are you?'
'Couple times a week.'
'Is she younger or older.'
'Yes. I date women who are older and younger - I told you, I love women. Any shape, size, age or race. I'm an equal opportunity letch.'
'That's funny. Okay, you're a letch. And you must be in pretty good shape?'
'You've seen my shape. What do you think?'
'Now you're being bad! Let's stay serious here. I'm supposed to be a professional. Next question. Have you ever had chest pains during sex?'
'How do think I got here in the first place? That woman nearly killed me! But I do have to say that it was the first time - and hopefully the last time. What I need to know is will this happen again and what do I have to do to prevent it from happening?'
'You've had a stent in one artery and the others were fine. It could have been just a narrowing that you've had for years. Your cholesterol was normal as were all your other labs. Your blood pressure was a bit high, but you're on meds for that now. Does your dad have high blood pressure?'