Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reflections from a Wednesday at Grady: Makeup to Breakup and Walking on "Sunshine"

(Good Day Atlanta Segment from Wednesday, October 7, 2009)


"Weren't you on TV this morning, Dr. Manning?" asked one of the senior nurses on 9A as I entered the room of my patient, Mrs. Dinkins* (names are changed.) I glanced at the clock for a quick timestamp and made a mental note of the time. 9:21 a.m.

The nurse, Mrs. Perry, is one of my most favorite nurses on 9A. She has been nursing since long before I even finished high school, and it shows. Fortunately, she seems to have taken a liking to me as well, which often lightens my load when caring for sick patients on her floor.

"Yes, ma'am, I sure was," I answered while leaning toward the light switch in the room. I turned my attention to Mrs. Dinkins. "Good morning, pretty lady! It's me, Dr. Manning. You mind if I turn on your light?"

Mrs. Dinkins smoothed out her hospital gown and nodded. I flipped on the light and approached the right side of her bed as florescent light bathed her half of the room. Her edentulous smile warmed my heart. Nothing like a big smile to start the day-- with or without teeth. It's what my kids call "giving some sunshine."

Nurse Perry walked toward my patient and started chattering. "I saw you on Fox 5 this morning, Dr. Manning. I was putting in a catheter and looked up there you was! I said to my patient, 'There goes my girl!'" She opened the breakfast tray and moved it toward Mrs. Dinkins left. I pictured her drawing her patient's attention to the television while having a Foley catheter inserted. Eeewww.

"Did I do alright?" I playfully replied. It's kind of fun to hear the staff acknowledge that they've seen one of my segments. I appreciated the acknowledgment. I reached for Mrs. Dinkins' wrist to check her pulse.
"Oh yeaaaaah, Dr. Manning! You always do good--you and Dr. Winawer--and I when I see you I always say, 'That's my girl!'" She propped a pillow behind Mrs. Dinkins head. "You comfortable, sugar?"

"Yes ma'am, I'm 'bout as comfortable as you can be with them hard pillows." Mrs. Dinkins emptied a packet of nondairy creamer into her lukewarm coffee and sipped it. Being the coffee snob that I am, I felt a small wave of nausea come over me as she slurped loudly. Peering up from the mug she raised her eyebrows and asked,"You was on TV this morning, Miss Manning?"

"Yes ma'am, I sure was. But tell me. . .how are you feeling today?" I felt another ripple of nausea while watching her take in a mouthful of the very softly scrambled eggs on her plate. Double eewww.

"I'm starting to feel a whole lot better," she replied while chewing.

"Excellent!" I responded cheerfully. Mrs. Dinkins was serious about those eggs. "Do you want me to come back when you finish breakfast?"

"Nawww, you fine. What channel you was on this morning?" she querried as she looked all around her tray for salt. She frowned at the packets of "Mrs. Dash" that she found instead.

Nurse Perry chimed in from the neighboring bed. "She's always on Fox 5 every week. And I'm always like, 'That's my girl!'" I looked over my shoulder in her direction and smiled. I felt my chest poke out a little. Nurse Perry peeked around the pink curtain separating the two patients and added,"You know what I was thinking when I saw you today, Dr. Manning?"

I grinned in anticipation of her compliment. "What's that, Mrs. Perry?" I palpated Mrs. D's chest wall and abdomen, and made eye contact with her. "You move your bowels this morning?" She nodded while still gumming those slimy eggs.

Nurse Perry went on. "You know what I was thinking, Dr. Manning? I was thinking, 'Why they always got so much heavy makeup on my girl when she's on TV?' You need to tell them makeup people that you don't need all that make up. You so much prettier in person." She pulled her gloves off her hands and tossed them in the waste basket. "Tell them that you need a better color on your face, too. That base they use on you is way too dark."

I laughed and shook my head. "I have to confess to you, Mrs. Perry, that usually I'm running so late into the studio that I don't even get my make up done. It's just my regular makeup applied a little heavier."

"Really?" she asked while placing her hands on her full hips and raising one eyebrow. Here we go.

"Yep. Maybe it looks funny to you because it's in high definition." I was trying to come up with something, anything to get her off of me. Good ol' Grady.

"Mmmm. Well. . . . I'm sure you always have people say stuff about that makeup to you, Dr. Manning," said Nurse Perry. "I mean, do you tape it at home? I bet you are like, 'Dang!' I'm sure when you see it you probably always think about that make up." That makeup. Wow. 'Dang' is right.

I laughed nervously. Wow. I can't wait to blog about this one. "Uuhhh. . . . honestly? I am usually pretty okay with it."

Nurse Perry put her hands back on her hips and cocked her head sideways. Oh goodness. NOW what is she about to say? "Nooooo, Dr. Manning. I'm always like, 'Lawd have mercy. My girl needs to do something 'bout that makeup.'" Ooommph. Body blow. I inspected Nurse Perry and wondered how much time she had spent checking out her own face that morning. Decided that she, too, could use a couple of pointers for her overall look. Or might even be a good candidate for that show where they ambush you and make you over.

Suddenly, I heard my patient clearing her throat, and for a fleeting moment thought she might need me to Heimlech those scary eggs from her throat. "Well, I kinda thank you look pretty," she injected with her raspy-eggy voice. She flashed her gummy "sunshine" at me once more.

"And I think you look pretty, too. Thanks, Mrs. Dinkins. At least somebody's on my team." I winked at my patient and retied the back of her gown for her.

Nurse Perry opened her mouth and widened her eyes taking mock offense at my statement. "I am on your team, Dr. Manning. You know you my girl! But for real. Go look in the mirror and check that makeup out. It just doesn't become you." I am not kidding you--she put her hands on my shoulders and directed me into the mirror in the patient bathroom. "See what I'm saying?"

Okay, now she is really tripping. Isn't she the charge nurse? Doesn't she have something else to do right now? "What Not To Wear." That's the name of that show! "Honestly, Mrs. Perry? I'm cool with it. And nobody has really said anything about the makeup being bad, or heavy, or dark, or whatever. No, I take that back. Nobody but you--like every time I see you." Raaawwwrrrrr. (Claws out) Kind of snarky, I know.

We stood in that little bathroom facing that warped mirror for only 5 seconds, but it felt like 5 minutes. This is awkward. At some point we both made the unspoken decision to mask the uncomfortable silence with industrious patient care. I returned to focusing my efforts on Mrs. Dinkins and her needs. Nurse Perry went back to charting and passing meds.

After a few moments, I felt a little bit bad about cat scratching Nurse Perry for her candid statements. Certainly the rules of Grady Seinfeld moments dictate that outlandish comments that border on insulting are actually terms of endearment. She must have sensed my thoughts, because after gathering all of her medications and papers in her arms to leave, she looked back over her shoulder and smiled at me. "You do know you still my girl, don't you?"

I responded warmly and met her eyes briefly. "No doubt. And you do know you're still one of my favorite Grady nurses, right?"

I wrapped up the visit with Mrs. Dinkins and answered her questions. After covering her with a blanket, I headed towards the door. "You want me to turn this light off or leave it on for you, Mrs. D?"

"Oh. . baby, you can turn it off," she said. I clicked the switch down and quietly stepped out of the room to scribble a note on the chart. Just as I finished up and closed the chartbox, I heard Mrs. Dinkins' scratchy voice murmuring what sounded like my name. I stuck my head into the door before leaving to address her question.


"I still thank you look kinda pretty, Miss Manning. Mek-up and all." She offered me her most genuine smile and it made me feel a little tingly inside. I walked back over to her hand grabbed her bony hand.
"And you know what, Mrs. D? I think you just might be my 'FP' today," I stated with a squeeze of her hand. She furrowed her brow and parted her lips to say, 'Huh?'--but before she could, I clarified it for her. "'FP' stands for 'favorite patient.'"


I stopped in the staff bathroom before leaving the floor to check myself out one more time. Maybe I internalized Nurse Perry's suggestions more than I'd care to admit. Without even thinking about it, I unrolled a few squares of toilet paper and gave my cheeks and forehead a quick swipe. I looked in the mirror and laughed. What am I doing? At that moment, I decided to make a mental recording of Mrs. Dinkins' scratchy voice in my head and a mental picture of her toothless "sunshine."

"I still thank you look kinda pretty."

I balled up the tissue, tossed it in the trash and thought to myself, 'You know what? Me, too. '

Throwing back my shoulders, I went on with the rest of my day--giving myself my own internal "sunshine" . . . . . and feeling, well, kinda pretty. :)

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