Some say that a nurse’s most important trait is having a spine. The next most important trait, of course, is having chutzpah.
The following is an excerpt from the chapter “Sisters of the Air” in A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit by Tilda Shalof.
I noticed that everyone was calling her by a new nickname and I asked why.
“It’s because of what happened the other night at work,” said Nicole. “Tell Tilda about it.”
Justine needed no prodding.
“Some lab technician calls to tell me that my patient’s potassium is 3.1 mmols. This guy hardly speaks a word of English—’verry creetee-cull reee-sult,’ he’s saying. I say to him, ‘Okay, it’s 3.1, gotcha. Goodbye.’ But then he asks my name. What right does he have to ask my name? ‘Why do you need my name?’ I ask. Some new policy about verification. Okey-dokey. I say, ‘My name is Pippi. Pippi Longstocking.’ A minute later his supervisor calls back to ask my real name. It’s his job, he says. This is serious business and he has no time for games. I say, ‘Pippi’—and slam the phone down.”
“Did she ever!” said Nicole.
“So the guy calls back and I say, ‘Okay, you’re right, I was kidding about Pippi. My name is Morticia. Morticia Addams.’ And he buys that!”
“We laughed about it all night,” said Tracy.
The name stuck. She became Morty.
The next night there was a sequel.
Never one to leave a prank well enough alone, Justine rummaged around in the refrigerator, which was always cluttered with Tupperware containers of old food and plastic bags filled with abandoned lunches. She found a Thermos with some sort of slimy substance in it, and slapped a big yellow sticker on it labeled “Biohazardous Material: Handle With Caution” and sent it off to the Microbiology lab, along with a requisition to identify the contents!
Later that day, Rosemary came over to Justine, who was working beside me that day. She had a puzzled expression and held out a lab report to Justine. “Is this for you, by any chance?” she asked.
It was addressed, “Attention to Morticia Addams, Staff Nurse, Medical-Surgical ICU.”
“Microbiology Results: Identification of Thermos contents: Ravioli.”
Excerpted from A Nurse’s Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit. Copyright © 2004 Tilda Shalof. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the publisher. All rights reserved.