“What’s In A Name…”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

There’s your cultural lesson folks- Shakespeare has Juliet utter these lines, among others, as she contemplates the meaningless nature of a name. In this case, we know she is focused on the name Montague. We also know how that story ends because apparently, names do mean a whole lot if you happen to be a Montague’s or a Capulet.

No feuding here, just some interesting baby names that have come up at work lately. Three in fact, that have the potential to carry weight for the little people who possess them.

The medical system that I am contracted with serves a diverse population. We have large numbers of Hispanic families. We have equally large numbers of families who are Muslim. We have Latin families. The surrounding community houses a growing number of families from Russia and the Ukraine. We serve numerous Asian families, with the largest numbers being from East and Southeast Asia. Each time that I meet a family with any of these ethnic backgrounds, I try to tuck away in my head some of the specific cultural formalities they often follow regarding naming their babies.

Mother’s surname is often combined with the babies father’s surname, but depending on the culture, it must be in a very specific way. Some babies are named only after a specific number of days have passed after birth. Some babies will be given a surname different from either mom or dad. It’s complicated and when I come to feel that I’m finally getting a handle on some of the patterns an entirely new one pops up.

Babies given name isn’t always predictable. I’ve had parents literally make up the spelling of a common name just to give their child a unique, and often impossible to spell, first name. I am learning not to make cultural assumptions either. I meet a mother and father from Ukraine who are named Yuri and Lyudmila, and expect to hear a baby name that somehow reflects their background and culture. I am not surprised anymore when those parents choose to name their son Thomas, or their daughter Amber.

With that in mind, I really wasn’t surprised today when I screened Celine Dion.

Mom and dad are from Vietnam. Their English is actually quite good. In fact, dad jumped right into spelling names for me without my even asking. We came to babies name and from across the room I heard “C-E-L-I-N-E.” Because I was trying to listen closely and double check each letter as he spoke I really didn’t register the actual name he had just spelled for me. As I began to speak each letter back to him for verification he quickly added,
“Celine Dion, you know like the singer.”

I smiled and thanked him because I assumed that he was just trying to help me make sure I understood babies new first name. I entered babies last name and then asked if they used or planned on a middle name for baby. Mom and dad both looked at me with an odd expression and said simultaneously, “Dion, D-I-O-N. Celine Dion.”

“Oh… Oh I see, I thought you were just trying to help me understand her first name, but she is actually named Celine Dion?”

“Yes, yes, just like the singer!”

I swear that I kept a straight face, because that’s what professionals do, and we just moved forward with the hearing screen. About 15 minutes later, while I was charting in my office, Becky the nurse rolled Celine Dion into the nursery for a test. As she passed me, and with a sly smile, she asked if I had learned babies name. Still being the consummate professional hearing screener that I am, I said that yes I had, and Celine Dion had done well on her test.

“Did they tell you the older girls name?” Becky asked, although this time her smile went from ear to ear.

“No, she was cranky so dad took her out during the screen,” I said.

As Becky rolled the baby into the other room I learned that I had also had the privilege of meeting Angelina Jolie that morning.


This next story, given the fact that I’ve talked in the blog before about our large number of opiod addicted mothers/families, is really nothing but sad, at least initially.

We had a baby in the NICU for many days. Mom and her partner (who believed himself to be the babies father, but who actually wasn’t) were both heavy abusers of opiods. They were told many times that they would not be taking the baby home. They did visit though, almost always high, and also in complete denial that the child was going into foster care. After numerous rounds of antibiotics and morphine for withdrawal, the day came that we could finally screen this little boy.

Most babies who spend a long time in the NICU, and are named, get cute little signs to hang near their isolette. We never have much information, so it’s heartwarming when we can at least record the babies name. In the case of a baby who is being surrendered to CPS we are only allowed to use “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” with the birth mothers last name. The birth family does not name the baby.

I was working on the day this little guy was eligible to be screened. When I started, I was unsure of his discharge status. Some parents, who are in treatment, are allowed to take part in some aspects of babies life. Because I had seen the parents in and out of the NICU I thought that perhaps they were being allowed to be involved somewhat. In that case, I asked nurse Alex if baby had a first name for my database.

Alex turned in her chair, and deadly serious with a glance toward a small construction baby sign near the bassinet, said to me, “Bunny Rabbit.”

I don’t think that I have the ability to convey my reaction adequately in this blog post. I know that I just stared at her as she repeated, with another nod toward the sign, “Bunny Rabbit.”

My head began to shake back and forth and I think I actually uttered, “NO WAY!”

“I’ll be using our standard Baby Boy in this case,” I said while I looked down at a precious boy with an IV coming from his head. Alex and Peggy began replaying some of the events that had led up to the naming of this boy by his heavily addicted and clearly incompetent mother. Legally, thankfully, she lost the right to name this child.


Some names make me smile. Some, in their uniqueness, make me laugh once I leave the patients room. Some make me cringe. Some names given to these little humans leave me wondering who they will grow up to be and how the choice of name will influence them, if at all.

What will Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie think about themselves, and their parents, as they grow up? When will the awareness of their famous names become apparent? How will others behave or treat them?

Who will the tiny boy, who has endured so much already in his early life, become? Will he ever know the woman who wanted to name him Bunny Rabbit because she thought it was cute and completely appropriate? I have to say that I hope not.

What is in a name, as Juliet asks? A mere label, or something much, much more…



Let’s Catch Up…

Just thought that I’d catch you up on the goings on in my world in case anyone is interested…

Here in my little 4-unit building we have some new neighbors. It’s only taken the landlords four months to gut and renovate the unit once lived in by controlling (and probably abusive) curmudgeon Sam. I have not met them yet, but I understand they are siblings, 3 of them, although I have only seen 2. I suspect they work a lot as they are young and it seems relatively quiet there so far. Even when they were moving in this past weekend they did so rather unobtrusively so I don’t suspect wild parties will be very common. In an ironic twist, one of them drives an old Jeep Wrangler that reminds me in noise level and looks of my Alison’s old car. Her’s was white, verging on dinged up, dingy gray and this one is black but it has the familiar engine sound, some odd wires or connectors hanging from underneath it and even duct tape helping to hold up one of the rear windows. Seems that aging Jeeps must fall apart in a universal manner.

***** ***** *****

I spent a good two weeks with some sort of toxic germs living in my nose and bronchial passages. I really thought that I was going to escape relatively unscathed this season as I had managed to avoid most of the germs my two little angels seemed to be spreading non-stop since September. Somehow though, even obsessive hand washing and bathing in hand sanitizer didn’t help this time. Working was interesting. I screened quite often in semi-dark rooms so that the parents (hopefully) didn’t notice all the snot dripping into my pretty yellow (but not very absorbent) masks. I also feared leaving unsightly snot trails under my nose when the masks came off.

In other work news, I had an interesting weekend there a few days ago. We had a baby born with a number of congenital anomalies, one of which might have involved hearing issues so I was asked to screen the baby right away in the NICU. She passed easily so at least that’s one less issue to deal with although she may still have a rough road ahead.

I had screened my first baby of the day just prior to that NICU baby. Thirty minutes later, standing in the NICU talking with Alex we heard “Code Blue, 3rd Floor, Mother/Baby Unit, Room 340.”  Room 340 was the baby I had just left. Code Blue means respiratory issues… as in not breathing. By the time the nurses wheeled her in and the code team arrived she was pink and crying. Apparently she gagged on a substantial amount of fluid and then began to turn blue.

A few other, non-baby issues came and went and I set out to screen my last baby for the day. I really didn’t need to do that one, but I suspected Sunday was going to be busy so I thought I would try to get one more finished. Mom was exhausted and sleeping, dad was also exhausted but very much needing to be the overly helpful dad that I sometimes run into. I have found an interesting cultural phenomenon with dads from Ukraine and surrounding Eastern European countries. They want to be very hands on when I come to screen, as in having the full intent to actually place my sensors and ear hugs for me. This dad was no exception, but I’ve found that if I give them a very specific task, as in helping to keep baby calm, I can get them to let me do my job.

Anyway, this babies coloring was wide ranging. She would fuss and be nicely pink, then gradually her color would turn. I watched this occur a few times and was just on the verge of stopping my test when she passed. It was pretty clear to me, although dad was unaware, that she wasn’t getting oxygen at an adequate level. I quickly gave dad his paperwork, turned to look at baby who had just been fussy and pink, and saw that she was dusky. This is dusky:


Needless to say I made a beeline for the nurses who moved quickly to check on her. The next thing I knew she was being wheeled into the NICU. Her oxygen level: 88. I found out on Sunday that she had been transferred to a higher level NICU. She was unable to stay adequately oxygenated even with a CPAP unit. Scary moments for sure and no one wanted to think what the outcome might have been.

***** ***** *****

Finally, in totally unrelated news, I have come to the sad realization that (and I don’t really know who said this, or even where I might have heard it) but when you divorce and expect to be relatively free from issues with your ex-spouse it never really works out that way. They are always a presence. They will always (inadvertently or perhaps not) find ways to irritate, anger, annoy and just generally plague your existence.

This could be a long story and this post is already long enough so very short version: There was an issue that arose way back in late September, but that I chose not to write about at the time. It could have been rather devastating and I have been planning and adjusting for the past few months. Of course it involves a financial component. Long story short, after more extended angst and worry, after new sleepless nights, in a rather accidental and unintentional way, I just found out (NOT FROM THE EX-SPOUSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO TELL ME) that all is just fine, peachy-keen, no problem, no worries, over and done. Apparently the knowledge that the looming crisis was no longer a crisis came to the ex around Thanksgiving. That means that I have had the pleasure of added stress for over 3 months now and was not even afforded the courtesy to be told that the world was good, that I could still plan for uninterrupted income, and that I didn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing silly things like trying to figure out how to stay warm while not using any heat in my apartment.

I will close this post by saying that I added that image of the dusky blue color not only to illustrate that sweet baby girls issues on Saturday, but also to highlight, after learning all the information above, what I pictured the color of my ex-spouses face to be as I throttled the life out of him.

My Patients

I haven’t shared too much about my job here on the blog, but this is a story about my patients.

I can tell you that very often my patients are grumpy, or down right angry. They even cry uncontrollably and unexpected. Most of the time they sleep, right through my prodding them and talking to them. They don’t seem to find it especially important to thank me when I call them beautiful or compliment their long, dark hair and chubby cheeks. They do make interesting faces and most of them have the ability to go from a grimace to an angelic and peaceful repose within seconds.

I know that they wouldn’t want me to share that they burp quite often, or even have a tendency to gag and spit readily. Some just can’t help themselves and fart or poop while I’m with them. Sometimes stuff like that just happens, especially when you aren’t really adjusted to so many changes and hospital rules.

Even though they don’t have much to say I can always tell who is going to be totally bored with my visit, or just as easily the ones who are already wide-eyed and following my every move. I always think that those are the ones I have to watch out for, that those patients will be the ones to purposefully and obstinately refuse to listen. Then they surprise me and I find myself wishing I could spend more time with them as they dismiss me and settle in for sleep.

Some of them try to be helpful. They want so badly to help me detach sensors or ear hugs and it often takes a lot of explaining to them that no, I really do have to tuck their hands back inside their swaddle blankets, but I so very much appreciate all their efforts.

I really can’t tell, even anonymously, any funny or whimsical stories that I hear from my patients. Most of them are just trying to comprehend how their world has turned upside down and why they can’t go back where they came from just hours ago. They’ll have stories for sure, but I won’t be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories.

Those are the patients that I visit in a quiet room with their loved ones close by.

Some of my patients are alone. I meet them in a large, sometimes noisy, space. Their freedom is tested because they are attached to machines. Many of these patients rarely notice when I stop at their bedside. Of course they hear me remark on their beauty and strength just like all the others. Some will show their displeasure for me with the occasional frown or soft high-pitched cry, but I move forward with my work.

These patients are almost always asleep. If they aren’t they twitch, and appear jittery. I move them about, touch them only as much as is absolutely necessary and watch them startle over and over again. There are some that I come to visit and I have to stop. They tell me that it is too much, too soon and they begin to scream in pain. These are the patients that are telling me their stories over and over and I see at least one every day that I am at work. These are the patients that don’t get to go home wrapped in loving arms at 24 or 36 hours.

These are NAS patients. Rather in severe withdrawal, or on a monitoring hold, these patients were born to mothers who used opiates during pregnancy. Those in withdrawal are given morphine. I work in a small facility. Our NICU can house six patients routinely with overflow for 1-2 more. Very sick babies are transferred to a Level IV facility. Most NAS babies stay with us until they are well enough to go into foster care. Since I began work on September 1st, there has only been one of my shifts without an NAS patient.

The work that I do with most babies is rather routine, and predictable in many ways. However, it will never be routine for me to stand in the doorway of the NICU and see a baby, only hours old, being given another dose of morphine. I could never predict how much an infant can tremble, and twitch and startle, never seeming to find peace and quiet.

I can only wonder what these babies stories will be, what their future will hold. I will not be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories, because to assume otherwise is too painful.


Nothing major, but something that has been growing on me since about mid-September.

I like my job.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I said that. Likely it was years ago when I was teaching childbirth classes. I loved that job. That job felt right. I probably used the word like a few times during my dental assisting career as well, although I suspect that I liked the doing of the actual job more than I ever really liked where I worked.

I also don’t really know why this admission strikes me as rather incongruous. I suspect that we can all find something about our work to complain about. The commute, a co-worker- or two or three, overtime, workplace drama, etc. I would be surprised to find anyone who would say that their career, and the inherent aspects that surround doing that career, is perfect, but I do assume that many/most of us like the path we have chosen or the career we have ended up in. Yet again today, as I spent time educating a father about what I was doing and why, the revelation popped quietly into my head: I really like this job.

Those extra shifts that I picked up when we lost one of our screeners haven’t been a burden at all. I could literally do this job five days a week. I don’t remember feeling this way when I worked at the same job five years ago. Just like the dental career, I liked the doing, but the place and people- no connection, no sense of belonging.

New parents haven’t changed. I meet them when they are bleary-eyed, sleep deprived but high as the sky eager and anxious and terrified humans contemplating the new person in their lives.

Babies certainly haven’t changed. The babies are the most predictable aspects of my job in so many ways…most of the time…until they aren’t. Babies will surprise you when you least expect it. They will force you to adapt and to think on your feet. Their job is to challenge and I am finding that amazing and humbling.

The job really hasn’t changed with the exception of a few procedural differences. Autonomy, self control and responsibility, the aspects that I craved last time around, still give me a sense of purpose, and self-worth, and feelings of capability and ownership in my work.

So with so much the same I wonder why I am so much in like with my job. Could it be because the facility is smaller with a calmer atmosphere, or that the staff is simply more welcoming and so I feel more grounded; more of a team member; perhaps even more valued. I remember always feeling intimidated when I had to enter the NICU to check on or screen a baby. Now, with my desk just 4 feet from the NICU, I am building a rapport with the nursing staff who feel like colleagues rather than strangers. I am greeted regularly by the housekeeping staff and nutrition staff delivering breakfast. I even got a physician (maybe anesthesiologist) who is always there on my shift, to finally smile and tip his head in greeting.

I’m sure that all of this is a factor, but I also wonder what’s different this time around with me. Five years ago I had just ended my career in dentistry because of arthritis. Five years ago I was beginning my role as grandma. Five years ago I knew that my marriage was over, although I had no idea that I would actually come to the decision of divorce. Five years ago it was difficult to take a job that had me working weekend evenings, even though I was beginning to welcome being out of the house more and more. I think in some ways guilt led me to take that job five years ago. I felt a need to still contribute, maybe even to prove something about my place in a marriage where it was becoming clear that my not working was frowned upon, and the reason I stopped working was implausible in the mind of my ex-husband.

Today, I hold this job for myself. I still feel a need to contribute, but the contribution is to my own sense of self, my own well-being, my own desire to learn from and interact with other adults. Of course, I am also contributing to my finances, and I won’t deny that the extra money every 2 weeks is a bonus! Selfish reasons maybe, but there is no burden of proof that is owed to anyone anymore. I get up and go to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings because I want to. Because I like to. Because it is necessary for me to forge a sense of ownership about myself. Because I do not have to think of how my days and nights are, or are not, making someone else happy or content.

I do this job for me, and that makes all the difference.



What does a “day off” mean?

An interesting call just came in from the coordinator of the hearing screen program. With no fanfare, just a simple and direct, “Tell me again your commitment during the week with your other job. Maranda just gave her notice.”

Maranda is the hearing screener who works during the week at my weekend location. It’s just the two of us, with my boss spending Mondays there, screening and doing administrative work. Five of the remaining six days per week she (the boss/coordinator) is at the larger facility about 10 miles away, screening and overseeing one crisis after another.

There was a moment, before I answered, where I wanted to say, “Why of course she quit. Everyone does in this rather low paying, increasingly stressful job.” But I didn’t, My boss already knows this. It doesn’t take any new hire long to realize that the time and energy involved in this work is likely never going to pay many bills. In this system, as a new hire, you have to have a firm idea when you begin that this job is likely going to be more part-time in nature, even if you work four days per week. It’s simply not a job you can support yourself, or a family, on. Maranda is apparently leaving for that very reason. Maranda lasted about four months.

So a new screener was about to be hired, but she can only work weekends. She’s a student during the week. My boss had hoped that I could move into Maranda’s work schedule and the new person could take my weekends. That can’t happen, although if it was a few years into the future I would have jumped at the opportunity. Team player that I am (?) I made the offer to cover on the two days I am free during the week: Monday and Thursday. Plus I will continue with my weekend schedule. Let’s do the math shall we–

Granddaughters Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Hearing screening Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

I believe that equals seven full work days per week. This new arrangement begins the second week of October. It isn’t forever, but, as this system moves at the speed of a very slow mud flow, it will likely be three, or even four months before someone new is fully functional to take Maranda’s place. That’s if the boss can hire someone yesterday.

It was rather ironic that this call came today. I was sitting here, reading a book on my day off and actually feeling rather like I was wasting time. I had these vague thoughts of how much more productive I could be; of how I really didn’t need a full two days off, because I really don’t have all that much to do…

And you know what, it will be okay. Two more days per week will certainly boost my paycheck a bit. My days screening are almost never full days anyway, especially on the weekends. Sitting here on these open days makes me feel pressured to clean my house, over and over, and I barely need to clean it now. I am not a messy person. Fortunately I have a good number of scrubs so I won’t have to do laundry every other day. Both of my jobs are a fairly easy commute and I will likely miss peak traffic times anyway…

I can do this, right?

Will someone, about mid November, just take a moment to remind me what it’s like in the real world where you get a day or two off on occasion. I’m not so sure that I’ll remember what a “day off” means by then.

Too early

It’s about 4:30 AM here right now. I was awake at 4:00. Awake about the same time yesterday morning as well. I don’t have to be up for my new job until about 5:30, but something has me up way before the alarm goes off.

My first day alone yesterday, and even though, at the very last minute, I actually received access to the electronic medical record, there were still issues. Nothing major mind you, but still I think this system needs some improvements when it comes to new employees. I had to wait on a baby anyway and that gave me time to chat with a great tech at the login help desk, Sam or Sebastian…or some S name. He got me access to the EMR that I needed. My fingers are crossed that I can still access it this morning when I go in.

A few observations:

Trendy, young, great couples who want to know everything. I enjoy catching snippets of a couples conversations about parenting,  when they are awake and alert enough to have those anyway. It’s difficult to go into these rooms and not play the role of established expert parent, especially when the couples are young, and you know that for all of their good reasoning now, much of what they feel strongly about doing or not doing with their new child will likely go out the window once they are home and reality sets in.

Babies are really hairy these days. I don’t mean just the peach fuzz lanugo that typically covers much of a newborn. I mean hair, long hair on so many babies. I only remember one of my kids having hair at birth. The little pumpkins that I have screened all have come out needing a haircut. Hair makes for challenging screening so I will always be partial to the bald babies.

Nurses. You know that nurses run the hospital right? Everyone, including the doctors who pop in and pop back out, is lost if a nurse is not visible at all times.

Pico pumps--a new and interesting gadget with claims to be beneficial after surgery (cesareans in this case) but that interferes with my job if mom is holding baby. Medically inclined readers…any comments on this device?

Air conditioning. I refuse to complain about working on the Labor Day weekend when I can be around air conditioning. We are on another hot streak here, with temps over 90 degrees day after day. My shift can go on and on…