Day in the life - July 2020

It’s July 2020. We´ve sold our apartments and are in the process of leaving our everyday lives behind. To do what? Ride our motorcycles around the world! 4 months from now, our everyday lives will look completely different. Our worries and what we strive for will change. And heads up: stories with patients are mixed up and details have been changed so they cannot be used to identify anyone.

5.45: Stupid alarm goes off. I pick up my phone and put it back down to snooze. I want to sleep more, but remind myself I’m only drawing out this situation, where I feel pretty sorry for myself. We’re in Kenneth´s apartment in Trondheim. We´ll be homeless in less than a month, as the new owners are moving in. This is our last home for quite a while. Don’t worry, Kenneth was not awoken by my alarm.


05.55: I stutter out of bed, through the tiny kitchen. My clothes for the day are laid out on the stove. Click the on-button of the water boiler twice, watch the turquoise light come on. Grab the filled coffee grinder and my clothes from the counter, head into the bathroom and try to open my eyes properly. Put my clothes on and grind the coffee, still in the bathroom to not wake up Kenneth. I thank Pia from the Past for filling the water boiler, grinder and laying out clothes the night before.


06.00: Heading back out to the kitchen, I open the fridge. It´s almost overflowing with food. Most of it we got from the dumpster behind the nearby grocery store. Apple juice, chocolate milk, soda. I have some of each, just because I can. The water is boiling, pour the grounded coffee into the V60, stop to smell it, pour the water in. As the last drops drip out of the filter, I pick it up and head over to Kenneth. He starts stirring as I slowly pour coffee from the pot into his cup. The day has started. I don’t feel sorry for myself anymore. We share a cup of coffee in bed, before I head out to work.


6.35: There’s a drizzle in the air, and almost 9 degrees. It is summer, after all. I’m very happy to see there´s no new bird shits on my bike. The ride to work is too short and uneventful. I want to ride longer, but my shift is about to start.


07.00: I’m in my nurses´uniform and pour myself a cup of coffee from the thermos I brought with me. I’d much rather drink our own coffee, The Nutty Bean, than the hospital coffee, which makes me shudder. The night nurse gives report and I take over the patient.


07.45: Doctor and surgeon come in to check on my patient. They’re happy with what they find, considering. Which is often the case. I try to give them an accurate account of the night’s happenings and my patient´s condition. Do a run-down of our observations, try to think of which questions will arise during the day and which drugs the patient is likely to need, so I won’t have to call the doctor too many times.


10.00: Is that the time already? I try to document my patient´s condition and progress. There’s a saying that goes “if it’s not documented, it’s not done”. If I forget to document something I’ve done, the nurse who takes over the relay might do the same thing over again. At the same time, I’d like to be present for her, help my coworkers and have some more of that coffee. More than anything, I’d like to fix my patient. She is not feeling well, and I’ve tried everything I can to make it better. I wish there was more I could do.


11.30: I say thank you and goodbye to the patient, who’s transferred elsewhere. Time to eat. My coworkers ask, “you’re not still thinking of Africa, are you? But what if you get stuck in quarantine there? Or robbed? Or killed?” “Yes, we’re really hoping for Africa!” I reply, and think of the 12 weeks that remain. Lunch is crisp bread with white cheese. And an apple, a gift from the boss. I wonder what Thomas Hansen is having for lunch that day.


12.00: I’m without patient, so I ask around if my colleagues want any help. I fetch some drugs here, clean up this there, change a bandage here, help turn the patient there, remind an old man where he is. Some of our patients are on ventilators, others breathe on their own. Some of our patients are awake and alert, and cooperate. Others are not able to communicate much through words or body language, so we have to read their vital signs for clues to know how they’re doing. Increase in blood pressure or pulse? Perhaps it’s pain, let’s try some morphine. Or is it nausea? We probably made it worse with the morphine then. We struggle to find the right drug to lower a patients blood pressure, and keep calling the doctor over.


13.10: I drink too much iced water too fast, and start coughing. I try to hold the cough in as long as I can. Run into another room, one without patients, to get a tissue ready for me to cough in. Tears are jumping out when I get there. Colleagues stop by the open door, quizzical look. “Why are you coughing? Are you sick? Just water? Allright.” Every week, one of our nurses are away from work awaiting test results for covid-19. Since it’s the summer vacation we’re low on staff, both nurses and doctors. Since there’s a global pandemic, it’s not a good time to be low on staff. We haven’t seen any covid-19 patients yet, and are very relieved about that.


14.15: I get another patient, one that doesn’t speak a lot of Norwegian. I strip away my dialect and speak as clearly and slowly as I can. My patient has a lot of questions, but has just woken up from general anaesthesia and is slurring her words. I tell her the surgery went well, there’s nothing to worry about. I suggest she has a nap and we’ll talk later, when she’s more likely to remember the conversation.


14.45: Phone rings, trauma incoming. We all check the papers to see what’s happened, who’s coming. No answer yet.


15.00: We say goodbye, I head out. I remember where I parked the bike today! Win. The ride home is too short, I want to ride more. But Kenneth is at the library working at editing a video, and I have a ton of things to do for Ride the Bean. Write a blog post, reply to comments and e-mails. It´s so exciting to read your comments, and get a glimpse of your lives all around the world. I imagine myself riding with new friends in Canada, Alaska, Ukraine and Sweden. I have to hurry up and finish the financial tasks left over from June, now that July is almost over.

17.30: Library closes. We head home for a pizza. The dough, peppers and onions were found in the dumpster. The money we would have spent on that, goes directly into the savings account for our trip. Just 12 weeks to go until it starts! We panic just a little bit, and put on an episode of Sopranos while we eat. There’s Tony having another panic attack, Meadow is rolling her eyes, and Paulie Gaultieri fixing his hair in the mirror. We escape into a world very different to our own, for the 55 minutes we eat.

I´ve seen this show 4 or 5 times, but see it differently each time. Tony´s worried his colleague is faking his back pain and is wearing a wire to supply evidence for the feds. He thinks seeing a wire will prove his theory. But what if he´s wrong? What if the dude has Failed back surgery syndrome, and tries an epidural stimulator as a last resort? It looks like a wire, but instead of recording audio it sends electric currents to the spine in an effort to distract the nervous system from sensing chronic pain. This might not happen very often in everybody else´ s lives, but I meet people with this medical implant all the time. I´d better tell the surgeon who does them to warn his patients about the danger of this misunderstanding, at least to all our patients that are in the mafia. I tell Kenneth about this and he just laughs.

19.00: Time for a head-to-head. Where are we now? What remains to be done? We look at our calendars and check that everything is correct. Consider doing some house work, but nah. I wonder if my patient is feeling any better, but remind myself she’s in good hands and is being properly looked after.


20.30: We finish our work with Ride the Bean for the day and call it quits. I try and let go of the day so to speak, and remind myself of tomorrow’s shift. I check the local newspapers to get an idea about what tomorrow’s shift might look like, and remind myself that’s a bad idea at the same time. I never know what will meet me at work, so there’s no use in trying to prepare. Reading about a traffic accident or other trauma isn’t going to help. I prepare tomorrow´s coffee and clothes.

22.30: Lights out. “What are we doing?” I ask Kenneth. “We’re crazy, aren’t we?” “No doubt. But we’re gonna remember these months we´re on the road for the rest of our lives. An opportunity like this will not come again. We get to travel the world on our motorbikes!”

Now. What will our everyday life look like in July 2021? Where will we be? We´re excited to find out!

-Pia

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Trondheim, Norway