We caught up with The Wrapper shortly before midnight, after my wife had fallen on the ice while coming out of a restaurant and broken her left wrist. She knew instantly it was fractured, so there was nothing to do but head for the nearest emergency room.
It was a big hospital. We got there at about 10 p.m. and were quickly processed and shown into an examining room. Nurses came and went, a young intern had a look at the wrist, and a technician wheeled in a portable X-ray machine and took some snaps.
Word came down. It was a “Colles’ fracture,” a wrist break across the end of the main bone of the forearm (the radius), and it would require surgery. The doctor had set up an appointment with an orthopedic specialist for the next day, but that day was Friday, and surgery would probably have to wait until after the weekend. In the meantime a splint would have to be applied. It was time to send in The Wrapper.
She was about twenty-five years old, pleasant and friendly, with brown hair. She wore a dark blue hospital top over a black, long-sleeved tee-shirt, and dark pants and sneakers. She was carrying a tray of the tools of her trade – tensor bandages, shiny metal clips, arm sleeves, a roll of surgical tape, thin strips of plastic.
Was she a nurse? I asked, as she scrutinized Diane’s left forearm. “I’m an LPN,” she said, “studying to become an RN.” She named the program of academic study on a campus in a nearby town. “And are you the main wrapper in this ER?”
“I am,” she said. “It’s about all I do.” Already she had wetted a sleeve of stretchy gauze and was sliding it along Diane’s arm. She said it was a full-time job, and that she wrapped anything that came along. “Will you continue wrapping when you’re an RN?” I asked. “I hope to,” she said.
How did she get into the wrapping business? “I got my start working for a veterinarian,” she said. “That’s what I learned to do – hold animals. You have to hold ‘em tight or you get your face chewed off.” Later, when she was in training to become a LPN, she did well in pediatrics, where kids often have to be restrained while they’re getting shots.
“A lot of people don’t want to hold the kids real tight because they’re afraid of squeezing them. I didn’t have a problem with that, and because I was good at holding things down, I got into wrapping, too.”
She had begun to wrap Diane’s forearm with three tensor bandages, one after the other. She clipped the last one into place and covered the clips with surgical tape. The entire process took about five minutes, and I have seen professionally wrapped Christmas presents that didn’t look as neat and orderly.
She was gathering her things and getting ready to go. Hoping for a last bit of advice, I asked her about the best way to immobilize a cat while you clip its nails. “Most people wrap them in a towel,” she said. “Hold it tight. Push up on the pad and down on the top of the foot. The nails will appear.”
Does it take two people? “You can just scruff ‘em,” she said. Occasionally I had seen a vet grab a cat by the scruff of its neck, pin it on its side, then stick a needle in it. “Most vets are good at that,” she said. “The cat doesn’t protest because it doesn’t know the vet, just like a kid who’s afraid of acting up in front of a strange doctor or nurse.”
After a trying evening, Diane was feeling slightly better. Another nurse came in, this time with a needle that contained a much-needed shot of morphine. We were about to be released and sent home for the night. We bade goodbye to The Wrapper, who was already hurrying along toward the next assignment.