"Making the Rounds"
The coffee was bitter, half cold sludge in the pot as Nathan sighed, wishing he had longer than a 15 min break. After Martin walked off the job, that meant he would have to pull the rest of his shift essentially on his own. This made him think long and hard about taking a quick nip from the flask in his coat, but having one write up on his record because someone smelled a hint of Old Grandad on him four months back made him think again. No, better to just down what's left of the hours old coffee-grog and get back to it. Idle hands are the devil's plaything, he thought, so let's just stay busy and out of trouble. Besides, with the new guy quitting like that, I'll pull at least a couple hours OT tonight. He sat down with his tepid coffee and a newspaper. Could be worse, right?
“Nathan!”, came the voice as it's owner stomped through the break room door. “Nathan, you're needed right now! Mrs. Allen in room 119 took a nasty fall coming off the toilet and we need you to get to her stat!”
A sigh, a thumb and index finger to his temples, then a quick acknowledgement of, “On my way, ma'am” and Nathan's break was cut nearly in half. Mrs. Allen was a nice enough old lady, but some of the nurses and even the doctors could be so cruel just because of her weight. Being of a relatively stocky and stout build, he was the “go to” guy when any of the heavier patients hit the ground.
The main floor housed the patients who were considered the lowest security risk. Mrs. Allen had been there for just over a year admitted by her own daughter after an attempted suicide. The pills she had taken were really not enough to do the trick, instead causing massive vomitting and disorientation, but little else. Still, it was all the excuse her daughter needed to have dear-old-mommy committed, assume power of attorney over the estate her late husband had left her, and proceed to squander the whole thing. Assets had been liquidated in the name of securing “long term government aid” for Mrs. Allen which really meant she would be spending the rest of her years being poked, prodded and profiled in a state run facility. One rather fat donation to the hospital from her daughter, yanked straight out of the inheritance ensured that her mother would most likely not be heard from again. Nathan heard stories like these about patients all the time. Sometimes he found himself feeling incredibly guilty for keeping his job, but always managed to rationalize it by telling himself, “if not me, then someone else, and at least if it's me, I know they'll be treated right.”
Stepping into her room, he could hear the faint sobbing of the woman from the tiny bathroom just across from him. She was a slightly larger than average woman when first admitted, having put on the weight that comes from a combination of age and a life of basic financial freedom that was the legacy of her late husband. Over the course of the past year, however, the depression and loneliness that lead her to the suicide attempt had evolved into a combination of lethargy and eating disorders that caused her to balloon to something upwards of 350lbs. Nathan had helped get her onto the scales for a checkup recently and was amazed. Now, as he knelt to help her, he just hoped she would put some effort into getting up this time. All that dead weight could become a problem fast.
The smell of urine was ripe as he opened the bathroom door. There she lay, in tears, a sobbing mass doped up on a battery of psycho active drugs. He knelt beside her, slipped one arm around her waist and placed one of hers around his neck. “C'mon, Mrs. Allen, let's get you back to bed.”
A slight groan and bleary look from her was the only response, and Nathan knew he would have to carry the bulk of her weight. With a series of heaves, he managed to get her up to a semi-kneeling position, then from there, in an all-or-nothing motion, muscled his way to getting her on her feet and stumbling slowly toward her bed. Once to the edge of the bed, he took a moment to straighten up her gown and then helped her in. “John...” she whispered as her head hit the pillow.
These were the moments that tested him, pushed every button, pulled every single one of the heart strings that Nathan tried to keep tight, hidden and protected. “John isn't here right now, Mrs. Allen,” he said, wiping the hair back from her brow. “Can I get you anything, though?”
“John...”, she said again, this time trailing off into a long, low sob, closing her eyes as tightly as she could and curling closer and closer to a fetal position on the bed.
“I”m sorry. I have to go, but I'll check back in on you in a while, okay.”