Category: Nursing


My first night EVER in Labour Ward as a student would just have to be dramatic. I seem to bring drama with me wherever I go.. Throughout most of the night, we heard a woman screaming and swearing next door – but seeing as she was in a different ward, it didn’t concern me too much.

At around 02:00AM, they transferred her to Labour Ward. “Agnes” was kicking up a fuss, screaming and going on and on, but I was busy watching deliveries and wasn’t really involved. I started getting worried when I didn’t hear her screaming anymore, and I was the only one concerned so I went to go look for her. I found Agnes in a bathtub, full to the brim with water, lying spread-eagled – one leg hanging out of each side of the bath. She just stared at me with blank eyes. Knowing that she was quite possibly suffering from pregnancy-induced psychosis, I felt geniunely concerned for her, so I pulled up a chair next to her and delved deeper into ‘New Moon’.

After about an hour I realized that with my luck I would be performing a waterbirth, and having never even delivered a baby yet, I thought it best to check exactly how dilated she was, etc etc. Agnes gave me permission (which is a miracle, because no one has been allowed to touch her up until this time). So, there I am.. Bending over a spread-eagled woman, with surgical gloves that only go up your wrist so far, performing a vaginal exam. Disgusting water was running into my glove, but her position at least helped me get a good idea of the fact that she most likely wasn’t in labour – however, I was still new to everything at this stage and wasn’t sure.. It was then that I realized the water was ice cold, and I convinced Agnes that she should go lie in her bed. She agreed.

I walked naked Agnes to her bed, covered her with warm blankies, and started giving her a back massage. She demanded that she wanted cream for her massage, which I didn’t have, so I ended up using Obstetric Cream which is what we use for vaginal exams. Lord. A sweet doctor came to thank me for keeping Agnes calm, and told me I’m helping everyone out so much. I turned my back on Agnes to get more “cookie juice” (as we call the cream), and suddenly heard the slap of barefeet on hospital linoleum. Agnes, heavily pregnant and heavily naked, was running out of the room. I ran after her, and grabbed her, but I wouldn’t describe myself as ‘strong’ exactly.. So Agnes wrestled me to the floor, and kept running – out of labour ward, into the main corridor of the hospital, past security guards, past waiting families. Behind her were about 10 nursing staff, and 5 security guards, screaming.

It took all 15 of us to take her down.. We got her back into the ward. Progress. The registrar (one of the main doctors of the hospital) came to see what the commotion was, and was promptly attacked by a coke bottle-wielding Agnes. Agnes then grabbed a paper punch and threw that at a nurse. Someone accidentally fell against the light switch and plunged the ward into darkness with a psychopath on the rampage. When the light came back on, there was Agnes making a run for it again, trying to crawl through an open space in the doors.

Eventually, we got her back into her cubicle and held the door shut. I looked through a crack in the door and saw her pick up a huge metal chair which she threw at the door.. When Agnes hadn’t tried to kill anyone for a couple minutes, I entered the room to find her dancing a traditional Zulu dance around the room. She screamed at me “I WANT PETHIDINE!” (a painkiller). At this stage, she was all maxed out on Pethidine and we couldn’t give any more, but she went insane, screaming for it. So, I did like in the movies and gave her a sterile water injection to really test the Placebo Effect. Well, let me tell you, it worked like a dream. She slept for an hour and all was good in the world again.

I was working in another cubicle when in ran naked Agnes. She grabbed a delivery pack saying it was her baby, and ran off. I was starting to get annoyed, walked out to go find her and when she saw me, she put the delivery pack down, took my hand and said “Come”. I didn’t want to die, so I obeyed her command. She climbed onto bed, and made me massage her. I then decided to have a ‘talk’ with Agnes. She apologized and gave me chills down my spine as she said,

“Don’t worry, I’ll never hurt you, you’re my favourite. I had a dream about my baby, and she looked like you. I love you.”

Greeeeeeeeeat. Psycho now thinks I’m her baby.

Needless to say, Agnes went nuts a couple more times that night, which resulted in me giving her two doses of Haloperidol (an anti-psychotic) which did not work; we eventually resorted to restraining her by tying her down to the bed with the help of every security guard in the hospital and I watched while she spat in a security guards’ face – Titanic style.

After approximately 5 hours of drama, it was confirmed that Agnes was in fact, not in labour, and was in Labour Ward for no good reason. Where’s my noose?

Manny the Mortician(s)

There are two morticians in the hospital, both with the same name – Manny. They smell vaguely of cabbage and death in a bone marrow stew. Either they never wash their hair, or they rub their heads on decomposing dead bodies, but their hair is literally dripping with oil, sweat (and occasionally faeces). You hardly ever hear them speak, but when you do, you can be certain that they will crack a really insensitive joke and burst out laughing – displaying their missing and rotten teeth. I remember being distraught after seeing and caring for my first dead patient, and through my tears, I saw brown teeth smiling at my ‘special delivery’.

The scariest situation is when you get into an elevator with one of them. It’s just you, a mortician, and a cold body covered in plastic and a green cloth. As you can imagine, not much conversation goes down. In fact, I have never said a word to either Manny for fear of them stealing my soul. Now, imagine actually getting stuck in the lift with one of them. Considering this is a government hospital, it is safe to say the lifts will stop working a couple times a week. I say I take the stairs to maintain my fitness. This is a lie.

If you go down to the morgue, you have to be careful because if the morticians see you walk into one of the big fridges, they hide under the trolleys and grab your leg unexpectedly (meaning you literally need a change of panties). These big fridges are the freakiest thing. They are so cold, and you just see bodies piled on top of each other. Occasionally, a stupid, dumbass nurse will get a body bag for a patient that is too small, and instead of wasting it and getting a bigger one, they will cut a slit through the top of the bag and the bottom so that all you see are feet and tops of heads sticking out. Ever heard of frostbite?

Word on the hospital corridor is that you can hear the sound of ghosts singing at the morgue at night. I walked there on my own one night in an attempt to see, or hear, a ghost. Truth be told, all I heard was my own screams as I ran back to my ward – Cindy had thought it funny to hide behind a wall and jump out at me. :(


In the hospital, when someone shouts “RESUS!”, it means get your ass into gear and start CPR. The important thing to know is that you cannot perform CPR on someone who is alive. They HAVE to be dead – which apparently, some fully trained nurses don’t even know.

So there I am, working in a Medical ward. I heard “RESUS!” and start running to the room like a child hopped up on pure glucose, only to find one of the highest ranked nurses performing CPR on a patient who was very much alive. The sight of a nurse, sweating and puffing while performing sub-standard CPR on a live patient who is trying to fight her off is an image that makes me sleep well at night.

Trust me, someone putting their full weight (and she wasn’t a small girl) behind their hands, performing chest compressions on your sternum at a rate of around 100 pumps per minute, is effing painful.

Afterward, the nurses all celebrated (in the form of an extended tea break), the fact that the patient survived. I didn’t have the heart to inform them that the patient had been alive all along.

Something Smells Fishy

Working in a surgical ward in the first few days of January guarantees the fact that you will see many “New Year’s Eve/Alcohol-Induced” injuries. Living in South Africa, these injuries are mostly the result of assault.

Night shift handed over to me, and because I was dreaming of my warm bed, I didn’t hear exactly what they said, but gathered that a patient, Brian’s, belongings were in the fridge.

I went to go put a name tag on what I assumed to be colddrink or something along those lines. However, upon opening the fridge, all I found was a brown paper bag, within which was a polystyrene cup. In the polystyrene cup was a nose. A human nose. Trying to (quite literally) put the pieces of this puzzle together, I went on a quest to find Brian. Indeed Brian had no nose. I don’t know what else I was actually expecting. His nose had been bitten off in a fight.

The plastic surgeons soon got to work and realized it would be difficult (and kind of disgusting) to re-attach a nose that had been in a polystyrene cup in a fridge with temperatures that aren’t really regulated. Plus, it was kind of old and shrivelled up.

Instead, the surgeons decided to perform a skin graft and basically just cover the open flesh and bone (rather than let Brian look like a person instead of Michael Jackson). This is the part I never quite understood. They took a skin graft from the back of his head – on his scalp. A scalp which was, I might add, covered in hair. I performed wound care for Brian and it really didn’t look too bad until a couple days after the op, when his nose started sprouting little black hairs. A few more days passed and Brian eventually had a totally hairy nose.

Suddenly though, the hair had disappeared. I was so happy for Brian until I found him in the bathroom shaving his nose with a razor. That explained that, then.

A Romantic Amniotomy

My friend Liz reminded me of this story, and I just had to share it with you..

In labour ward, where I currently work, we receive new medical students every 6-8 weeks who are in their Obstetric and Gynaecology block. It is an academic hospital, so we have to teach them various things – like how to deliver a baby, for example.

Now mostly, these students annoy the crap outta us. Occasionally, we have the really sweet ones, that work hard. Occasionally, one or two of them are hotties. This was one such occasion.

Jeremy was not your typically ‘handsome’ man. But he was cute, and just had something about him. He was a proper charmer. All the Sisters had a soft spot for him, and I think he knew that. In retrospect, he was skinnier than me, shorter than me, and blind as a bat.

One day, Jeremy came and asked me to teach him how to perform an Amniotomy. Basically, in an amniotomy, you break open the bag that baby is sleeping in to speed up labour. One of the complications is that the cord that supplies the baby with oxygen and nutrients can slip out the vagina, thereby putting the babies life at risk.

I talked Jeremy through the procedure, and he did brilliantly. I told him to make sure there was no cord before removing his hand from the vag. Jeremy breaks the bag, and suddenly looks at me from behind his coke-bottle glasses with big eyes and says, “I feel the cord.”

Now, Jeremy was pretty new at this so I had to make sure he was actually feeling a cord. So, I donned my sexy blue, plastic apron. I seductively pulled gloves onto my hands, and lubed up my fingers with KY Jelly. I explained to the mom what was going on, and I could tell she could sense the sexual tension in the air. I had to stand in front of Jeremy, quite close, and lean over slightly. *Visualize Jeremy teaching me to play pool*

I put my hand on top of his, and slipped my fingers through his. There we stood, fingers interlocked in another woman’s vagina. Jeremy looked down at me from behind his coke-bottles and said “This is so romantic.”

I admittedly lingered there a little longer than necessary, knowing that there wasn’t actually a cord – but Jeremy didn’t need to know that, did he?

Maggots for Breakfast

I once had to change an old man’s nappy, before transferring him to a different ward. So, I take off the dirty nappy and open his legs to wipe him and I see holes in his ‘gooch’ area opening up – they must have been about 4cm deep and I could see into him. That’s generally not a good thing, what with all the TB, sputum, vomit and crap found in a Medical ward.

I opened his legs even wider to further inspect whatever damage was present and maggots suddenly started running out of the holes and started going everywhere. Up his legs, all over the bed, on my hands. I ran out gagging. I went to call the Sister-in-charge and she tells me, “There’s nothing we can do. Just close him up with a new nappy and take him to the other ward.” I do as told by my senior.

In the other ward, I informed the staff about the maggots. Their jaws dropped and I swifty got the hell out of there before they could change their minds about accepting the patient.

I now wish you all a very pleasant breakfast, lunch or supper. x

A Man in Women’s Clothing

One of my duties in a Surgical Ward is to prepare patients for surgery. There was a woman dressed in a green, flowery dress that I was instructed to go help.

I grabbed a theatre gown, went into the cubicle and closed the curtains. “Amanda, I’m just going to help prepare you for theatre, let’s get you dressed into your theatre gown first.” So, la da dee dee da, I’m busy daydreaming about what job has the best pay, when I notice her covering herself awkawrdly. Suddenly, everything started adding up.. The deep voice. The lilting gait. The 5 o’ clock shadow. The inability to walk in heels. And then I saw it. Major penis. (She, umm, I mean he, would have had a rough time at an all-girl boarding school with that penis.)


A Bit of a Predicament

I had my plans set for how/when/where/why/what I was going to study.  I’m a bit of a control freak when it comes to this sort of thing.  I was going to start next year with my Advanced Midwifery through Wits.  Seeing as I’m already placed in Obstetrics and Gynaecology where I work, it is the perfect place to start my rotations and get the necessary experience to become an Advanced Midwife.  The plan was perfect.  However, I decided the best thing would be to speak to the Matron in charge first and let her know that I’m planning on studying next year.

Bad idea.  It’s difficult to catch her on a ‘good day’, and this was not one of those days.  She told me straight away that I can’t study next year and need to “prove” myself to be a good midwife first.  She doesn’t ever watch me deliver – how would she know whether I’m good or not? And hot damn, I am good, I know I am.  She also informed me that there were 20 people wanting to study and adding any extra people makes a lot of admin, and it’s difficult to work out the hours and paperwork.  In other words, she’s not willing to do her part in this.  She then told me I also couldn’t decide whether I wanted to work full time or part time – I had no choice but to do it full time.  She informed me that I could maybe study in 2013 or 2014.

Now, the way I see it, if I am paying out of my own pocket, who is she to say what I can or cannot do – and how I must do it?  So, needless to say, I left work feeling very demotivated.  The fact that I’m willing to stay in a government institution should mean more to them – plus that I will pay to further myself for their benefit!  Right now, I’m not seeing the point of what I’m doing.  Why struggle for the rest of my life for nothing?  So I sat and thought of my options.

  • I could wait til 2013/2014 to study, but that’s a lot later than I’m really willing to wait.  I would like myself to be way more settled in life at that stage – not still studying and on a crappy salary.
  • I could get a private hospital to buy me out and study through them – however, a midwife is not allowed to deliver babies in a private hospital (only a doctor can) so that is definitely not stimulating for me.
  • I could change to a different hospital (most probably out of Gauteng as apparently all the Gauteng hospitals are full for applications).
  • I could choose not to study at all, and just keep gaining experience, but I love studying and know I will regret not furthering my education.  Plus, my goal has always been to work as an Independent Midwife, which I cannot do without studying further.
  • I have always wanted to work in the UAE – specifically Dubai – where nurses are paid extremely well (but once again, aren’t allowed to deliver babies).  However, this would be good experience and I could save up enough money to buy myself a house on return to South Africa.
  • I could apply for a position available at the Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton, England.  They have an incredible midwife-run maternity unit.
  • Lastly, I could have a complete change of career – something like engineering – and start off with a salary that is three times what I’m earning now with four years’ experience.

In other words, I have a lot of thinking to do and I don’t even know where to start.  It’s sad that someone who has so much passion for her job can be pushed away from it by negative attitudes and experiences.  Sure, we hear that there aren’t enough caring nurses out there but it’s because the passionate, caring nurses aren’t fundamentally important to their employers.  Such a sad panda.

Colostomy Sex

A colostomy is basically an opening through your stomach straight into your intestines, rather than you using your bum to go to the toilet. It happens after bowel surgery, cancers, etc.

There was a patient with a persistent infection of his colostomy which is quite unusual. I had never before seen an infected colostomy. Doctors couldn’t understand what was going on – the nurses couldn’t understand, even if they tried. The doctors started running tests, such as pus swabs, to see what bacterium was causing the infection..

What did they find, you ask? Semen. That’s right. Semen.

The man was offering his freaking colostomy for sex, in exchange for money.

Sex with intestines. WHO DOES THAT!?

Patience is a Virtue

Over the course of the last week of night shift, I discovered something that I didn’t notice before. I have become a patient person! If you had come to me 3 years ago and asked me whether I was a patient person or not, I definitely would have said “No” and “Do not ask me stupid questions”.

Over the course of the 7 nights I was faced with a variety of ‘tests’. The first of these was an uncooperative patient who (despite having severe fetal distress) decided she didn’t want to push – but would rather breathe through every contraction instead. She proceeded to walk around the delivery room. Once I got her back in bed, she kept rolling around. She then ripped her drip out. Ultimately, we decided it was best to take her to Caesar as we were worried the baby wouldn’t survive. The dear patient was kind enough to give me a goodbye present in the form of a kick to the crotch.

The night after that, I received another patient – this time, a young-ish girl in her first pregnancy. I kept trying to calm her down, but she pushed all the time (despite not being fully dilated) and screamed her lungs out every time she had a contraction. All the staff asked “Who has the crazy patient in Room 1?”.. That would be me.

On my 3rd night, I admitted a patient who stared at me constantly, while I dripped and catheterised her, while I did her vaginal exam. It started getting awkward. I then went through all of her thick file and discovered she is a known Psychiatric patient. Seriously?!

On night 3 (a bad night overall), I had an argument with a Sister I work with. She literally followed me through the ward trying to start a fight with me over something completely stupid and unimportant.. The cow then *stole* my CTG machine (which we use to monitor fetal heart rate and contractions) after I specifically told her I was busy with it.

One of my biggest pet peeves is someone who interrupts me while I am speaking. I encountered this throughout the week. While handing over a patient to theatre staff, while talking to a friend, while taking a phone call, while having a conversation with my split personality..

I don’t know how I didn’t have a nervous breakdown this week. A couple people told me they would have screamed or hit something had they been me. Apparently I have more patience than I ever realized.. I sure did a lot of knuckle cracking, though.

Whew. So, how did your week go?