Archive | May, 2015

Remembering Mary Chase: RIP, Mary – You Were a Doll

23 May

I met Mary Chase my first or second week in nursing school, as most of my class did. Over the years & throughout our training, Mary kept popping up when we most needed her; when we struggled to understand a new procedure she just seemed to be around. She was always available to help us test new nursing skills.

Mary was quiet & unassuming. She never complained, even when subjected to the stumbling, probing & prodding for which student nurses are famous. She was always there when we needed her. She was gracious in her willingness to be our guinea pig; to help us learn new things, to offer her assistance towards making us the excellent Registered Nurses we would one day be. We owe so much to Mary. I’m sure we took her for granted, although I hope we didn’t. If we did, I am grateful that Mary was never aware of it.

I feel certain that Mary is no longer with us. Over the years we seem to have lost track of her, which is tragic for one who gave so much. While we moved on, I believe that Mary continued to grace the hospital with her presence; offering herself to class after class of student nurses to help them learn. Mary was just like that & we owe so much to her for helping launch so many careers in the nursing profession.

Mary willingly offered herself … her body … to student nurses for starting first IVs & allowed us to give her our first-ever bed bath. We gave our first injections to Mary long before graduating to oranges & actual patients. Because she didn’t mind & seemed to be in the hospital when we most needed her, the majority of us gave Mary our novice enema &, as well as I remember, she never flinched. Mary Chase was the very first individual that most of us catheterized. I imagine she never complained because her place in history was secure & her contributions were unequaled. It was a “given.”

Mary had a terrific sense of humor & went along with most anything anyone asked of her in appreciation of a good joke.

On a particularly slow evening in the Delivery Room the nurses went to find Mary & decided to include her in what they believed would be the joke of the century. Many years later it was considered just that & is always remembered with laughter & a round of knowing smiles… with Mary Chase in the middle of it all. It was surely her most amusing contribution to the history of the hospital & her most shining hour.

With no one in labor, the Labor & Delivery wing of the hospital was very quiet. The nurses were sharing an extremely rare moment of boredom & decided to go get Mary Chase. Always agreeable, Mary willingly allowed the Delivery Room nurses to position & drape her on the delivery table for a mock delivery. They then placed a call to an OB – GYN doctor who was famous for his frequent practical jokes; many of which were aimed at the Delivery Room staff. They informed him, with a note of urgency that a patient of his was on the delivery table & ready to deliver.

With every bit of haste, the doctor arrived at the hospital, changed into scrubs, washed his hands at the scrub sink & rushed into the delivery room where Mary Chase was draped & waiting for him on the table. He sat down on the delivery stool & looked into the “woman parts” of Mary Chase. He breathed forth an expletive that could have been heard several states away, got up from the stool & left the hospital amid waves of laughter from the delivery room nurses.

The story has become a classic …

I’m sure that some part of Mary Chase, if at all possible in the depths of her plastic brain, was also laughing that night. Everyone KNEW what reaction the OB doctor would have when he looked up at Mary Chase’s plastic vagina.

Our Mary Chase & the entire series of Mary Chases were life-size, anatomically correct teaching mannequins that graced the classrooms in most every teaching hospital of the day. They were invaluable & I will never forget “our” Mary Chase & the wonderful story of her night in the Delivery Room.

Rest in Peace, Mary Chase. You were a doll ……………..

Mary Chase 2



Gravity and Willie Nelson

12 May

I woke up this morning & staggered to the bathroom. That’s what those of us who suffer from frequent insomnia do the mornings after a rough & sleepless night. Reaching for my toothbrush I noticed that I was missing an earring (I’ve been sleeping in my earrings since way back several decades ago when I got my ears pierced) & I immediately thought of Willie Nelson. I went back into the bedroom & found it lying in the bed … the earring; NOT Mr. Nelson.

Seeing my naked earlobe just suddenly brought to mind Willie Nelson. He’s been on a number of talk shows lately publicizing his recently published book. I forget the title but while Mr. Nelson is a somewhat controversial character, most everybody loves or admires him for one reason or another; a certain song, his checkered life &, well, the controversy. Mostly, I think people admire him above & beyond his music because of his honesty.

Mr. Nelson has just turned 82 years old & seems to have some part of every one of those years & their accompanying experiences etched on his face & memorialized on his frail body. But he still has that Willie wit, that dry sense of humor, a certain way of laughing at himself & his mile-long signature pigtails. What I noticed most about his recent appearances is the size of his earlobes. They are HUGE!

Having been a nurse & having been taught way back in nursing school to be observant I’ve noticed that people, but most particularly men, it seems, tend to get enlargement of certain anatomical parts with advancing years. Yes, occasionally that particular appendage, too, but that’s not the focus of this blog entry. The focus is mostly ears & sometimes noses. While elderly women tend to get wrinkled earlobes & noses, men generally tend to get an enlargement & elongation of their corresponding body parts.

I’m speculating here that those enlargements are most likely due to gravity, but I’m not sure. Numbers of elderly persons don’t seem to be afflicted with this particular body morphing thing, so I’m wondering what causes the phenomenon in some but not in others. Probably there’s been a study about this & somewhere there’s literature that blames enlarging body parts in some elderly persons on smoking. After all, that life-threatening habit has been blamed for everything from psoriasis to fleas & certainly Mr. Nelson’s gargantuan earlobes could be related to that … smoking of tobacco & those other self-admitted substances. But, again, that’s not what I’m really focusing on.

Just an observation, however – if longevity is measured in earlobe length, Mr. Nelson has cornered the market on long life.

I’m part of the “Baby Boomer Generation” & we stand for being innovative & prepared; looking the bull in the eye & taking it by the horns. So if I’m going to be plagued with elongating body parts in my twilight years I want to be ready & since Willie Nelson’s ears were almost my first waking thought this morning, I’m going to start with that.

Conceding that my parts are likely to elongate… quite possibly my ears… I am formulating a game plan, with no disrespect to Mr. Nelson. He is simply the visual that brought all this to mind & sparked my need for preparedness.

Women are most adept at camouflage but if we aren’t, we are certainly adept at finding new uses for things that change. I believe it’s just something we’re born with, like turning a Tupperware ham keeper that’s gone sticky into an effective back yard planter for an attractive border plant. We’re just talented that way.

So I started thinking about Willie’s earlobes & wondering what uses I might find for my own if they begin to succumb to gravity someday. Being the caring person that I believe I am, I will be more than happy to share the results of my research with Willie Nelson.

I’ve given this a lot of thought based entirely on the size of Willie Nelson’s earlobes, which are now the “gold standard” for me.

If I decide to take up sky diving at a ripe old age because it is somewhere on my bucket list, can I use my developing & elongating earlobes as parachutes? Can I possibly save a few coins by using them as sails for a sail boat I may purchase during an episode of “mind-slipping” as my years advance? And what about para-sailing? Certainly monster earlobes will be useful for that retirement pastime. Boat rowing & maybe even hockey are other considerations & just might be somewhere on my bucket list. The possibilities are astounding.

Being female & practical & not quite so sports minded, though, I’m thinking more on practical terms like wondering just how far my earlobes are likely to fall. Will they be approaching my shoulders just as shoulder pads make a come-back AGAIN on the fashion scene & runways across the fashion world? That could be a good thing (except for the fact that shoulder pads are ugly & give women an unbalanced, deformed appearance). I could simply drape those earlobes across my shoulders & save myself a huge expense not buying an entire new shoulder pad infused wardrobe to keep up with the fashion of the day.

What about BREASTS? Whether we turn out skinny or chunky, little old ladies seem to have an on-going battle with south-going breasts. THAT is directly related to gravity, I think, although some will argue it has everything to do with muscle tone. Regardless, breasts take a direct hit in the elderly & maybe we can find a use for those elongating earlobes that will solve both those problems. SOLUTION: simply stuff those earlobes in our bras (if we’re still wearing one). The extra flesh will add volume that looks & feels natural & nothing will be wasted. We just have to find a way to pull those sagging breasts out of our waistbands & position them just right below the earlobes in our bras.

I remember years ago a friend telling me that she couldn’t jog because her very large breasts would beat her in the face if she tried to run with any speed at all. Earlobes could certainly be a solution to that problem by adding bulk & stability inside her running bra. The only down side to that (down side … get it???) is that she has to wait until she is elderly & her earlobes elongate to test this possibility & solution.

I think I’m going to develop a plan of action & start working on this right now. If I start early perhaps I will be able to ward off unnaturally elongating earlobes for a while. And while I’m delving into the feasibility of my plan that is to reverse the effects of gravity, I may be getting a little exercise that will be helpful to me in a number of areas.

If you need to get in touch with me, please don’t try to reach me between 2 & 3 p.m. For that hour every afternoon, starting TODAY, I will be standing on my head & thanking Willie Nelson for bringing my attention to a problem that I just may be able to solve long before (long …get it?)  it becomes an irreversible affliction. I’ll let you know …….


The Briscoe Center for American History has created a display honoring the Living Legend in Willie Nelson with an exhibit inside the Red McCombs Red Zone within the north endzone of the Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium on the University of Texas campus. Nelson arrived to a ceremony opening the exhibit Friday night November 7, 2014 with Don Carleton, Executive Director of the Biscoe Center, who are the curators of an extensive Willie Nelson collection. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Happy Nurses Week!

8 May

National Nurses Week is an annual week in recognition of nurses everywhere in our country & the wonderful contributions they make in the world of medicine. Nurses are recognized as the backbone of the American healthcare system.

National Nurses Week begins on May 6 & goes through May 12 in recognition of the May 12 birthday of Florence Nightingale; the founder of modern nursing. I imagine Ms. Nightingale would be amazed at how far her dream of nursing has come & the extent to which it has evolved.

This really isn’t going to be a “history of nursing” blog entry but I did want to give readers an idea of what & why National Nurses Week is. And I DO thank everyone who has been kind enough to wish me a Happy Nurses Week.

Even though I took an early retirement & am no longer employed as a nurse, I think once you’ve been one, you always WILL be one. As proof of that, just ask any nurse’s spouse or child who has been rushed off to the ER in the middle of the night for some catastrophic ailment (perceived by the nurse parent or spouse) that turns out to be a very minor condition that could have been handled at home with an aspirin & a Band-Aid. Nurses are geared towards critical thinking & we KNOW it’s best to err on the side of “critical” than to ignore something that just might be a symptom that has the potential to turn into a horror story. Better safe than sorry …

Long before we had spouses or children to inflict our diagnoses upon & long before we even had a “License to Practice…”, we were student nurses; a category in & of itself.

For Nurses Week I noticed that some of my nurse friends were posting photos of themselves on Facebook when they were student nurses, which was cool. So I dug out a student nurse photo of my own & posted it on Facebook, too; me in my freshman year of nursing school wearing my new cap.

I got many responses; from Happy Nurses Week… to how important nurses are… to comments about my hair-do “back in the day” of the picture. That led me to respond to someone that maybe I should have been a hair dresser instead of a nurse because hair dressers seldom have to give enemas or empty bedpans (Seldom? Well, almost never, I’m guessing, unless one goes to a “full service” salon).

I also got private responses from some of my nurse friends about our student nurse days & every one of those made me laugh. Sometimes memories shared with friends can be the best part of your day.

A non-nurse friend said my cap reminded her of the Pope’s cap & that made me think about the significance of that cap. Just as I was mulling that over in my mind another friend said how she really missed nurses wearing caps, even though they could be a hassle to work in. My response was to agree about missing seeing caps on nurses but I also remembered how much we looked forward to getting those caps back in our “pre-clinical” days.

Until we received our caps we were just “kid nurses;” a name one of my early patients called me in the days before my cap. Having that cap on our head somehow transformed us … MADE us nurses. And by the time we were actually “capped” we were sophisticated enough to no longer buy that “wolf ticket” sold to us earlier by senior student nurses; the one that sent us running off to Central Supply to fetch a fallopian tube.

I remembered a student in my class forcing a patient to take the pills she found in a medicine cup beside his bed. She wouldn’t leave until he took them so he finally did, all the while protesting that they were saccharin left over from his dinner. Since she didn’t know what saccharin was, she made him swallow them with water anyway.

The whole Facebook thing about National Nurses Week made me think about how far a nursing career can take us. We start out as kids running off to Central Supply looking for that elusive fallopian tube & at the end of our careers, mine, anyway, I was spending nights, weekends & holidays “in charge” of the Operating Room & skillfully handling gunshot wounds of the head in the middle of the night.

We study, we train, we experience … we evolve.

I also started thinking about missing it … the nursing thing. What I don’t miss is being “on call” & working nights, weekends & holidays or working ALL of those things on the same day. But I miss the technology; the Smart Rooms, the robotic surgery. I miss the adrenalin rush that’s always just a heartbeat away & working with a team of people during an emergency when everyone knows their job & everything works out just right. I miss the comradery & the people. It’s a career like absolutely no other & I’m glad I was a part of that.

My favorite student nurse story was told to me by a friend who graduated from our nursing school several years ahead of me. She said while working nights as a student nurse, her job was giving medicines. There was a patient who was on medication around the clock, which meant waking him every few hours to give him his pills. During the change of shift report, the evening nurse passed along that this particular patient was somewhat confused.

My friend dutifully woke the man every 2 hours & gave him his medicine with a glass of water from the pitcher at his bedside, which he took without a problem. However, after each glass of water he said, “Tastes like piss.” This went on throughout the night & he repeated the same complaint after each glass of water.

In the morning after my friend gave the man his medicine & he repeated the complaint about the water, she decided to refill his water pitcher before going off duty. To her surprise she found that he had been using his water pitcher as a urinal all through the night & his complaint about the water had nothing to do with his confusion.

Student nurses … if you survive them; you’ve got to love them.

And after we survived those years “in training,” most of us turned out to be pretty exceptional nurses.

Happy Nurses Week!


Now where was that fallopian tube?


student nurse Linda