It was an extremely busy day. I did not stop running the whole time, and really the only reason I can think of why nothing bad happened was that the ICU patients had the good sense to keep in order. If one of them had gotten in trouble, the whole juggling act would have fallen apart.

There was an elderly lady with a huge abscess. I mean huge; I could fit my hand in it. I spent fifteen minutes draining it, feeling bad about hurting her, because it was so big I couldn’t possibly numb the whole thing up, so I had to do it with only lidocaine in the area of the incision, and the rest of it was relying on elderly ladies’ well-known capacity for stoicism. It was a really ugly abscess, too. It made me nauseated, and that’s hard to do these days. It smelled so bad I had a headache for the rest of the day, and I could still smell it – it had to have been imagination – after changing my clothes and showering.

Finally, when I’d used up several packs of gauze, plus towels and washcloths, emptying it, packing it, and then cleaning her up afterwards, she reached for my hand. “Thank you so much, honey. People have been telling me for weeks that they can’t do anything to make me feel better; that I’m too old to do anything, or that my heart history is too bad, or my lungs are too bad. You’re the only person who’s actually done something about the problem. God bless you.”

Well, by the time I saw her, it was impossible not to do something, so I can’t take too much credit for the action. But her smile was worth the whole ugly mess.

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