37: What’s Really Bugging You?

37: What’s Really Bugging You?

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Nurses

What’s Really Bugging You?

I have learned a great deal from listening carefully.

~Ernest Hemingway

As a home health nurse, I frequently find myself doing tasks that are outside the usual scope of nursing practice. I have cooked meals, run errands, fought with landlords, dealt with creditors, walked dogs, helped with laundry, changed light bulbs, shoveled snow, and picked up items from the store or pharmacy.

Several years ago, in Florida, a lovely elderly gentleman was referred to our agency for health-related issues. During the admission process, he patiently answered my questions, signed forms, and allowed me to complete the required nursing assessment. When I got to the questions related to sleep, he described an unusual scenario of a long series of sleepless nights.

“Every night when I try to sleep and the apartment is quiet,” Mr. Bennett said, “a cricket wakes me up. I’ve had this crazy cricket for weeks, and I’m just about at my wit’s end.”

“Really?” I replied, not quite sure where to go with that.

“My buddy is going to pick me up some traps today. I’ll get that cricket if it’s the last thing I do!”

“Well, good for you,” I said as I gathered my things to go. “I hope you catch it.”

At the next visit, I was curious to hear how the cricket traps had worked out.

“No dice!” he said with disgust. “I’m starting to think it might not be crickets. Did you know that palmetto bugs make a noise too?”

I’d learned that a person can’t live in Florida without having some up close and personal experiences with palmetto bugs. These large, winged cousins of the common cockroach give most people the willies, and believe me, I was no exception. However, to my knowledge they never made a peep, and I said as much as I checked his blood pressure and made notations in his chart.

“Don’t be too sure,” he said at last. “It’s a more shrill noise than crickets make, and I’m pretty certain that’s what it is. I have to catch it if I’m ever going to get a good night’s sleep.”

And so the quest for the palmetto bug continued.

Each visit, as I addressed his health issues, Mr. Bennett regaled me with his latest attempts to catch his nemesis. This went on for several weeks, until one day during our visit he suddenly paused and held up his hand.

“There!” he said excitedly. “Did you hear it? Now that crazy bug is starting in during the daytime! When will it ever end?”

“Are you talking about that faint chirp?” I asked him with a smile.

“Yeah it sounds faint now, but not in the middle of the night, believe me,” he said with exasperation.

I heard it again, and this time, I was sure.

“Mr. Bennett,” I said, “would you mind if I stood on your kitchen chair for a minute?”

Puzzled, he shook his head and gave me the go-ahead.

Carrying the chair back into the hallway, I set it down, stepped up, opened the smoke detector, and removed the batteries. The alarm gave one final chirp.

“You don’t have a cricket or a palmetto bug,” I said, as I showed him the spent batteries. “All you need is some new batteries.”

“That’s what’s been keeping me up all night?” he asked with disbelief. “Not a bug after all?”

“That’s it,” I said with a smile. “The only thing that’s been bugging you is this smoke detector.”

He shook his head in disbelief. “All this time, and it was as simple as that.”

“If you have some new batteries,” I said, “I’ll be happy to change them for you.”

He produced the new batteries, which I inserted with a flourish, snapping the lid back in place.

“There you go,” I said as I carried the chair back to his kitchen table, and mentally added this task to my unusual-things-I-have-done-in-the-course-of-work list.

“Honey” he said, “that was worth a million dollars to me.”

Smiling, I patted his shoulder and then gathered my things to go. “I can’t wait to hear about how well you slept the next time I come back.”

“And I can’t wait to sleep!” he exclaimed.

Mr. Bennett greeted me with a wide smile at our next and final visit.

“I’m a new man!” he said as he opened the door. “Best sleep I’ve had in weeks!”

~Sharon Stoika-Smay

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