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I cleaned up John as quickly as I could, but it wasn't easy. I spread paper towels over the poop in the bed and washed John thoroughly. Then he had to roll to his left side so I could roll up the right side of the filthy bottom sheet and bed pad next to his body. Then I immediately replaced the bare part of the mattress with a clean sheet and bed pad.
John then rolled to his right side and onto the clean bedding while I pulled out the soiled bedding and finished rolling the clean sheet and bed pad onto the rest of the bed.
I knew I was fortunate because John was strong enough to roll himself. GNAs often have to roll a patient onto his side and hold him with one hand while changing the sheet with the other hand.
Then it was time to move to the next room, where I found gentle Margaret in a pool of diarrhea and vomit.
Margaret suffered from dementia and was confused by the mess that surrounded her.
"Something, uh, seems to have happened here," she whispered, as if she might hurt the feelings of the person who had gotten sick in her bed.
"It's all right, Margaret," I told her. "I'll get you cleaned up."
But where to begin? Everything was covered with filth -- Margaret herself and the bed.
Trish the RN rushed in. "You're going to have to give her a shower, honey," she commanded.
I got a shower chair from the large shower room down the hall and dashed back to Margaret's room with the chair that looked like a rolling toilet seat, complete with a potty under the hole in the seat, necessary for catching what might be released when the patient was in the shower.
Before I could get Margaret onto the chair, Trish grabbed a bed pad and put it over the shower chair seat. "Here, you need to set her on this," she said.
I knew the bed pad was a mistake. Any other fluid that came out of Margaret's bottom would flow over the sides of the bed pad and onto the floor instead of going in the potty. Also, I would have to lift Margaret off the chair in the shower room to get the bed pad out of the way.
I was discovering quickly that Trish liked to give orders with no thought to the consequences, and she wouldn't listen to any other opinions. She was very critical, too. "C'mon, girl, you need to pick up the pace," Trish ordered me.
But at least she helped me get Margaret out of the bed and onto the bed pad-covered shower chair.
Rolling the chair as fast as I dared, Margaret and I then flew down the hall to the shower room,.
In the shower room, I turned on the water to warm it up, but now I had to get the bed pad out of the way. All alone and terrified that I might drop Margaret, I strained to lift her enough to remove the bed pad.
Miraculously, I managed it, and rolled Margaret and chair into the shower. She looked so confused by the spray of water that I felt sorry for her. Although the water was warm, the room was cold. As soon as I turned off the water, I wrapped Margaret in towels, yet she shivered and shook.
We hurried back to her room, where poor Margaret had to remain seated on the shower chair while I put clean sheets on her bed and, again, left the soiled bedding on the floor as Trish had told me to do.
I continued to work my way down the hall, finding sick people in nearly every room. My first night to work a 12-hour shift, and a wave of stomach flu was sweeping through the building.
When I finally reached the last room on the right, tiny Minnie was mewling as quietly as a weak kitten. Minnie had just returned from the hospital the day before. She had been admitted because of pneumonia and hadn't yet recovered completely.
Now she leaned over the side of the bed and vomited onto the floor. When her stomach spasms stopped, I cleaned up Minnie and Trish came in to check on her, or perhaps to check on me. "You gotta go faster, girl," Trish again told me.
I didn't know how to move any faster. Already my fear that I couldn't do this new work quickly enough was being realized.
More of this chapter to come soon, I hope. Thanks for reading, and thanks for commenting. I promise that every chapter won't be filled with poop and vomit.