Shift Observations: On Luer Locks, Voting, Taxes, and Thanksgiving

While tightening a Luer lock connector to its mate after starting an IV, I curse myself once again for not playing with Legos more as a child. Working with the catheters and tubing used for delivering intravenous medications requires combining fine motor skills (action) with the ability to see how they connect.

Instead, my childhood preference for playing with dolls foreshadowed a love of the human body in my dual roles of artist and nurse. I’m more interested in muscles, ligaments, and the miles of vasculature and nerves connecting the anatomy of a human being, than the plastic bits and pieces carrying medications into them, yet they are tools of my trade. I secure the caps and connectors snuggly, while carefully keeping their tips sterile.

Likewise, I am more interested in relationships, the way human beings connect to one another: nurses to patients, coworker to coworker, artist to model, family member to family member. Would connections between people be more resilient with some sort of psychosocial Luer lock, or would we chew at such connections with the single-minded determination of a wolf gnawing off its paw (or someone else’s paw for that matter) to escape a trap?

Someone has said,

“The building block of society is the individual, not the family unit.”

This statement conflicts with what I was taught,

“The family unit is the building block of society”

It seems to me that the problems of adult life, everything from, “At which family member’s home will we spend the holidays?” to, “Does this issue deserve my vote for funding from higher taxation?” arise from the conflict between these two statements.

Seriously, whose bright idea was it to combine Election Day, property taxes, and Thanksgiving during the month of November? Are they trying to put people in a bad mood?

Politics and holidays: at times they bring out the worst in us. Whether making decisions in the voting booth, or negotiating family holiday plans, I’m learning, with difficulty, that people are more important than the Luer locks connecting us.

Meditation on Luer Locks and Legos

It All Fits Together (2009) photo: JParadisi

It All Fits Together (2009) photo: JParadisi

     If I’d known I was going to be a nurse, I would have played with Legos more as a child.

     I say this to myself while snapping together the various plastic pieces needed to start an IV: valve cap, connector tubing, luer lock syringe. This tiny medical sculpture will connect to the angiocath once it is successfully introduced into my patient’s vein. On the other end, I connect the infusion tubing dangling from the bag of solution for the patient’s treatment.

     The pieces fit together in such a way to make needles unnecessary. The needless system is a safety measure  preventing staff from poking ourselves with contaminated needles.  On second thought, the system is more like those Habit Trail environments for hamsters, only it’s molecules of blood, medications, and normal saline running through the tubing, instead of a small, furry rodent.

     It’s easy to feel like a hamster running through its Habit Trail on days when the tasks that need to be accomplished are unending.  I remember this while I carefully connect the pieces I need to start an IV one by one, mindful of keeping the ends sterile. I imagine myself stringing beads. I think of a rosary or prayer beads as I make each connection. I focus my thoughts on the task at hand: placing an angiocath into the vein of my patient. I remember to breathe. I am ready to begin.