I posted on twitter earlier this morning about a phenomenon that, due to my lack of self-awareness, probably happens to me way more frequently than it should. Sometimes, I start telling what I think is a funny work story, and about ohhh.. halfway through, I'll look at the face of the person I'm telling it to and notice that they look shocked and horrified rather than amused. When people hear I'm an ER nurse, they always want to hear my craziest/ funniest/ weirdest ER story, but I've found after four years here and I don't really notice weird that much anymore, and I have trouble differentiating crazy/funny from terrible/disgusting.
What's worse than realizing this is happening is realizing it's happening and then trying to explain why, YES, you don't understand, this totally is funny, for real. I had one of these moments with my husband this week while trying to tell him this story-
Lady comes in post-CPR, not doing so hot. Like, not if but when she's gonna go type of thing. We're trying our best to keep her alive while explaining stuff to her large family- while this is all happening, one of our medics is trying to keep the lady's three year old great-grandson occupied by letting him take his pick of stickers at the charge nurse desk. The inevitable finally happens an hour or so later and we give the family some time to talk to the chaplain and view the body. After they leave, we go in to take her down to the morgue and notice she is covered in Batman stickers. Everyone I work with, myself included, thought it was hilarious. I tried to recount it to my husband, and yeah, not so much.
"So she died? Man, that's really sad."
"Yeah, but, I mean, they were all expecting it, and they were actually dealing with it really well."
"But, I mean, so the little kid saw her and stuff? That's pretty messed up."
"Yeah, but he put Batman stickers on her! It was weirdly kind of sweet and I don't know it was just really funny at the time okay?"
"Yeah, I guess kind of, but it's mostly just really messed up."
Fair enough. I guess such is the nature of the ER. I guess from the outside, it seems like we're laughing at the death of someone's granny and it seems really terrible. I wish I could adequately describe what it feels like, after several years, losing count of how many dead people you've seen, how much blood and pulmonary edema you've wiped away to make someone sort of look like the person their family once knew, trying so hard to get their eyes to close, the familiar plastic smell of the body bag, looking down in the midst of it all to see a crude collage of superhero stickers. It's really not funny. But at that moment, it's the funniest shit in the world.