Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I am fighting a vicious upswing of my lower back arthritis and when I stand up and walk I go numb from the knees down. This fuels my anxiety and I recall the orthopedic surgeon's words. "You will be in a wheel chair by the time you are 50."

Dude I am 47 this year I still have THREE years left before I have to turn in my legs. I will not go down without a fight. The spasms were so bad last night I had to leave work early. I am not ready to be a disabled person yet. But have been so since my 20's.

Let me share with you that one second....yup that was all it took, just one second, to physically altered me for all eternity.

I worked night shift in a nursing home that had a locked geriatric psych/Alzheimer unit. I had been on that unit for nine years with minimal issues. I enjoyed being locked up at night.

I came to work that night to find I was training a brand new certified nurses aide (CNA). Fresh out of the CNA class and ready to hit the floor.

Before we entered the wing I stopped and looked at her. She looked nervous. "Listen," I said "Stay with me, and do everything I tell you and this will be a piece of cake. Sometimes the residents can get a little rowdy with people they do not know."

We entered the wing. The night passed without incident.

There was 30 min left of the shift when we got to room 10 to get those men up. I set up new girl with the easy resident and started working on the one that was the hardest.

"Mr ____, I called softly and touched his shoulder. "Good morning, its time to get up."

He grumbled but tossed back his blankets and sat up. I took off his pj top and as it slid off his right hand he grabbed it. I held the tension to see what he was going to do. Nothing. For a few seconds we just stood there. Then I felt him pull the shirt towards him.

Knowing this mans history and what he was capable of doing and the fact he had already injured people prior, my alarm bells rang out.

Without releasing the tension or taking my eyes off of him I spoke up. "New Girl?"

"Yes?" she replied.

"We've got trouble here."

MR. _____ stood up. I swiveled to put the door behind me.

"I need you to listen...go out the door and go directly across the hall and into that room. CLOSE the door behind you, STAY THERE. I will be right behind you."

The tension he was applying to the night shirt was now powerful, it took two hands and a lot of force to keep him from yanking me forward.

"Now?" she asked sounding unsure.

"NOW" I commanded.

She fled the room.

The game of tug of war continued as I slowly backed up to the door. His eyes now were a blaze of anger.
I squeezed out the door and before I let go of the shirt, I jerked it to off balance him, and give me a second or two head start. I shut the door and flew across the hall to the other room.

I closed the other door behind me and called out "New Girl?" It took all of maybe a nano second to scan the room and see she was not in there.

What went through my mind in that split second was this: Mr ____ is going to catch her in the hall way and hurt her. I opened the door to go find her.

I never got out the door.

As soon as it cracked open his hand shot through and grabbed my throat.

He shoved me violently back into the room and came in taking the time to shut the door behind him.

When that door clicked shut I thought, its over, he is going to kill me.

Not one to go down without a fight I let him back me up against the first bed so I could have some leverage. My pelvis ended up facing left while the rest of me he forced to the right. I had his free hand in my left hand.

Like some horrific game of twister we locked up.

I quickly set about removing his hand and restoring my air flow. After what seemed like and eternity I got his thumb pulled back and didn't have the strength to get the rest of his hand off my neck.

I knew if I screamed I would panic and loose what little control of the situation I had.

Mr. _____ started menacingly hissing in my face.

"NEW GIRL!" I called hoping she was near by.





At last a timid "yes" came from outside the door.

"Go - get  - the - day - shift." I said slowly and calmly.

"which one?" she asked peaking in the door.

My body started to shake as I surpassed the ability to maintain it in its current predicament. The world was starting to get fuzzy on the edges. He was going to succeed in choking me out.

I surrendered to the fear and screamed "GO GET THE DAY SHIFT!"

She shut the door.


Stay on your feet stay on your feet stay on your feet stay on your feet my mind shouted as I frantically thrashed in a pointless effort to get away.

The day shift burst through the door just as I lost my footing and he forced me to the floor.

The day shift tackled him off me like they were linebackers.

...and my life changed forever. All because I for one second put the safety of another before my own.

Would you jump on a grenade to save another?

In a way I did that day. There was no debating, or deciding if her life was worth more than mine etc. It was pure action. My body took over and did what it needed to do. Would I take it back if I knew the outcome? Oh heck yes. a thousand times yes.

I was off over 6 months on that OJI. I was diagnosed with herniated disks L-4-5-S1, my sacral-illiac joint on the left side was trashed. Sciatica, nerve damage in both legs...and later myofacial pain syndrome as  result of the injuries. Despite all the efforts they could not rehab me back to health. I was declared permanently partially disabled. I was retrained and stuffed into medical records.

Heck of souvenir to pick up from my days as a CNA.

Every once in a while someone will inquire "I would like to work in medical records, how did you get started in there?"

I always shake my head and tell them. "You don't want to get into medical records like I did, go to school."


  1. The most tragic part is you were permanently disabled but don't qualify for disability. There is a disconnect in the system. Thanks for illustrating the dangers relating to caring for the elderly. Home caregivers, there can come a time when your loved one is too much for your skill level and needs professional care. They can be danger to themselves as well as danger to you. It doesn't mean don't love them or are shirking your family duty, it means you are getting them the supervised care they need. Oh and thank a CNA for the work they do the next time you see one.

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