On Sunday, December 15 I found myself on a plane smiling and wondering if the things that happen to me, happen to other people or if perhaps I’m special.  I decided I’m not special, at least not in that way, I think I see things a bit differently and I just don’t have the ability to say no.  Ron White once said “I was told I had the right to remain silent, I just didn’t have the ability”.  I’m pretty sure that applies to me, in most situations.

Here’s how I happened to be on that plane.  The following is over text message the week before Thanksgiving:

  • Friend:  Hey girl, I’m thinking about the same surgery you had last year, how long is the recovery?
  • Me: Best thing I’ve ever done, recovery is 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Friend:  Crap, that’s a long time.
  • Me:  Let me know when you schedule it and I’ll see if I can come out and stay with you, you really should have someone with you around the clock for the first few days.
  • Friend:  Will do, thanks.

2 days later:

  • Friend:  Scheduled for December 16th.
  • Me:  Holy crap that was fast.  Let me check my schedule and my checkbook, not sure I can swing that.
  • Friend:  Ok.

2 hours later:

  • Friend: Frontier has one-way tickets for $84, I’m buying you a ticket and you can drive me and my car back to Minnesota.
  • Me:  Ok, if you’re sure.
  • Friend:  I’m sure.

And that my friends is pretty much how I happened to be on a plane to Denver on December 15th.    She’s originally from my home town and doesn’t have a ton of family in Colorado, plus, I had the same surgery last year so completely understand what she’d be going through.  Trips out-of-state have been few and far between since the ‘the great job loss of 2012’ so I was happy to get away, even for a few days and even if it was to play nurse.

I arrived Sunday night and we had to be at the hospital by 5:30 Monday morning.  4:15 came early and we headed out in plenty of time.  Arriving at 5:15 we were the only ones checking in, for about five minutes.  Between 5:20 and 5:30 that place turned into Wal-Mart.  Pajama pants, bad hairdos and a severe lack of teeth were suddenly running rampant and I was happy for the ego boost so early on a Monday.

The surgery was a success and the patient did very well, she was home with me by 2:30 PM which is completely crazy to me.  I was hoping to have stories from the family waiting room but I worked and napped the entire time so didn’t pay attention to what went on around me.  The real fun didn’t start until we got home.

Although Denver was beautiful while I was there, it was an 80 degree difference from Wisconsin, I didn’t enjoy the outdoors….at all.  I stayed in, played nurse, worked, chased two cats and attempted to fix the boiler.  Yes, I said cats and boiler in the same sentence.

We woke up on Tuesday morning and it was COLD in the house. It became apparent the heat wasn’t working when I looked at the thermostat.  It was set on 68 and it was 58 in the house.  Ok good.  What was really great about this…….it wasn’t her house.  She was house sitting for someone while recovering, so that means I was house sitting and playing nurse.

She got the homeowner on the phone and I went downstairs to take a look at the boiler.  Pipes cold,  yup NOT WORKING.  She said she would call the plumber and let us know what the verdict was.  The patient then asked “Where’s Danalia (cat)”?  I said “I have no clue but I closed the gate when I went downstairs so she should be up here somewhere”.  Then the plumber called.  He was busy and didn’t really have time to come out so could he talk me through assessing the situation…… response was “You can certainly try”.  Here’s how that went:

  • Plumber:  “Is the pilot light lit?”
  • Me:  “Pilot light? Where exactly would I find that”
  • Plumber: “Oh boy (he thought that was under his breath I think), ok, look at the front of the boiler, you may have to take a small panel off.  There is a little notch and you should be able to look in and see a blue flame.”
  • Me:  “Ok, panel off, give me a second (as I lay on the floor), I don’t see a flame of any sort.”
  • Plumber:  “Are you sure?”
  • Me:  “Pretty sure I know what a flame looks like.”
  • Plumber:   Big sigh.  “Ok, find some long matches.  I’m going to walk you through lighting the pilot light, it was kind of windy last night.”
  • Me:  “I have trouble starting the sauna but I’ll try. Long matches, long matches……oooh, she has a fireplace, (up the stairs) let’s see…….got ’em!”
  • Patient:  “Everything okay?  Can I help?”
  • Me:  “Really?  Yeah sure, get off your sorry ass and come and help!  Of course I don’t need your help…..dork”
  • Plumber:  “What was that?”
  • Me:  “Never mind, I’ve got the matches.”
  • Plumber:  “Alright, now go down to the boiler.”
  • Me:  “I’m here.”
  • Plumber:  “Ok, there’s a red button, you have to push it in order to be able to get the pilot light lit, then you have to hold it down for at least a minute after it lights.”
  • Me:  Put him on speaker phone, lay it on the floor and I lay on the floor, cold cement basement floor.  “Ok, holding, lighting, holding……tell me when a minutes up…….dude, are you still there?”
  • Plumber:   “Yep, keep holding.”
  • Me:  “Feels like an hour, finger is going to fall off.”
  • Plumber:  “No it won’t.”

We went through this three times and the pilot light did not stay lit, there were curse words, 12 matches and a burnt finger.  During the third time I hear a MEOW and see a cat out of the corner of my eye.  What the!!!  Where did she come from??

  • Me:  “Denalia, bad kitty, stay, stay here by me, you’re not supposed to be down here.  Naughty kitty.”
  • Plumber:  “Do I dare ask?”
  • Me:  “This *&%^$@ cat is not supposed to be down here and she’s not staying by me so I can take her upstairs when I’m done here.”
  • Plumber:  “Cat’s don’t stay.”
  • Me:  “Thanks Tips.  This is not staying lit.”
  • Plumber:  “Ok, I will rearrange my schedule and come out and get it fixed, it needs a (&*&^%#$.”  No idea what he said the part was called and at that moment I didn’t really care.
  • Me:  “Ok, thanks, see you later, we’re here all day.”

I then started the first cat search which yielded nothing.  After about 10 minutes I gave up and went upstairs.  After washing the dirt and soot off me I filled in the patient on what was happening so she could relay the information to the homeowner.  I then went back to the basement to find the cat.  Luckily I did find a cat.  I grabbed the cat, held it out in front of me and brought her upstairs.  I presented her to the patient like a gift and said “who is this?”  She said “that’s Winks”.  Not happy, I was not happy.   That meant both cats had made their way downstairs.

I gave up on the cats until after the plumber came and finished the job.  Then I gave up on them for a couple more hours.  Continually calling them.  They don’t listen.  Cats do not listen.  After a few hours I snuck downstairs and found them both curled up on a bed.  Thankfully they didn’t fight me when I grabbed them.  No idea how they both got through the gate.

The plumber came and fixed the boiler so we were happy to have heat and thankful it was fixed before we had to leave.

I won’t go into detail about the cats getting into the garage the next day and me having to get them out of there.  I am not a cat person and I do not do well crawling on all fours on a garage floor under a 1969 VW Bug trying to catch a cat by its tail.  That was a several hour deal and it caused my blood pressure to go up.  Did I mention I don’t like cats?

On Thursday we were ready to start the trek from Denver to central Minnesota.  The car was packed, and I mean packed, and we were strapped in.  For those of you who have been reading my stories know that I don’t sleep well, you probably also know that I have narcolepsy when in a vehicle of pretty much any kind.  As the only driver on this trip, I was worried about how this was going to go.  The one good thing about it was that I had to stop every two hours for the patient to get out and walk around, which then would allow me to regroup as well.

About ten minutes into the trip I started to giggle.  My patient looked and me and asked, “Do I even want to know?”  I said “Well, I was just thinking how this story is going to start.  It starts with a narcoleptic/insomniac driver playing nurse to her patient passenger who takes an anti-seizure pill, stool softeners, Ibuprofen, an anti-nausea pill and Percocets each day.  Oh, and just to let you know, if you have a seizure for the first time in five years I’m going to strap you in the back with all three seatbelts, shove a wallet in your mouth and keep driving.”  She said “Don’t, it hurts to laugh” and shook her head at me.

The trip was fairly uneventful.  My passenger was craving Taco John’s at one point and found one online for us to stop at.  The bad news was when we got there it was closed for their employee holiday party.   We stopped and stared in the window for a couple of minutes but that did not deter them from having their fun.

We had several other laughs to make the day go fast.  As the driver, I did very well and didn’t fall asleep at the wheel once, I didn’t even hit a rumble strip!  It’s the little things.

We made it to Sioux Falls and found a lovely Motel 6 where it seems the only thing they do is leave the light on.  Which is unfortunate because then you can actually see what you’re sleeping in.  At one point my patient dropped something from her bed and we heard it land on the floor and then hit something under her bed.  That was a 15 minute process of extreme laughter and being grossed out because there was garbage under her bed.

The final five-hour leg was sunny and gorgeous with no incidents.  My patient actually drugged herself up enough to sleep a majority of the day so I talked to myself and sang.  Once we were at her parents her nephew came and picked me up and brought me to St. Cloud where I was meeting another friend so I could get to my car in Minneapolis.  I met her and her family at a restaurant.  I was a bit early so got lots of looks as I sat in the entry way with a suitcase and a computer bag for an hour.  I think the staff started to think I wasn’t meeting anyone and was really homeless.

I made it home Saturday morning in time to work two eight-hour bartending shifts.  I was exhausted but happy.  My friend has made a full recovery.  I’m sure it was in spite of my nursing abilities.  That’s not a job I could do.  I told her I draw the line at wiping her butt.  I said I would just take the garden hose after her.  She told me not to make her laugh.  I didn’t listen.


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