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I have seen many patients in chronic pain, it’s not an easy sight to see, some cuss at you, some cry at you and some even spit at you when they can’t get what they want. Then there are those who go down the road of finding their own solution to easing that awful pain. I actually have had several, who have done just this. I have smelled their evil ways, if you know what I mean.

I had this patient that had chronic diabetic ulcers to his feet, to the point where he had no toes; they had all been amputated due to infection. I saw this one gentleman while on a general team and I have seen him while on the IV team. We cannot escape him; he just keeps coming back. I’ll call him Tom.

Now I myself have never indulged in the act of smoking weed, just don’t see the point of it for myself that is. Tom on the other hand is a pro at it, as well as his hippie wife. You can actually smell it in the driveway when you drive up, once I saw smoke coming out of the windows, I thought the house was on fire. I should have known better, it was tom and his wife lighting up again. One time I must have snuck up on them because when I knocked at the door, I could hear them and his wife says, “Shit who’s that at the door, hurry up!” Then there was a great deal of noise from their scurrying around to hide everything and make the place presentable. Who are they trying to kid? Don’t they realize by now, it’s the smell that gets you every time; it’s always that distinctive odor that gives the activity away. Then when I enter the house Tom’s wife says “oh it’s just the nurse.” I guess I am the cool one, I am down with that.

Now you have to remember that neither Tom nor his wife work, they are both by chance disabled and they are always stoned. Some days I wish I were their dealer, I wouldn’t have to work so much and I would be rich. Now I don’t condone their behavior but neither one of them are on any intense pain medications at all. So to them it is their only source of pain management. It’s safe to say that it is also cost effective for them both as well because I never have had to send an MSW out there to assist with financial issues and they are not on food stamps either. So it really keeps me guessing just how to they afford it, maybe they are growing it? Who knows? All I do know is that I don’t have to report them because I have never actually “Caught” them in the act. It’s just the smell that gives them away and really isn’t any of my business.

To me, if it is helping him cope with his pain, I’m all for it. Which makes me sound as bad as they are, but seriously if they cannot get real narcotics for his pain what is he supposed to do? Steal it? He came up with an alternative plan and it is working for him.

The only problem that I have with it, is indeed the smell. You know how you go into a smoker’s home and all you smell is smoke, well it is the same in this home, all I smell is weed. The worse thing that happens is that it gets on my clothes and I leave smelling like weed, every time I go out there it happens. I get out into my car for a breath of fresh air and there it is that smell, soaked into my clothes. I have a bottle of vanilla perfume in my car and I am constantly spraying it on myself when I leave a home of a smoker, I don’t want my next patient to think I have been smoking. It, however, doesn’t work that well on the weed smell; the smell just comes back eventually.

I was on the phone once right after I left and I was speaking with my team leader and I was sharing with her about the smell. She says to me “Oh God Marilyn what will you do if you get pulled over by a cop, what will you say or do?” “What do you mean what will I do?” I said. She then says “Patient confidentiality, you won’t be able to tell the police where the smell came from.” I thought about this for about a second or two and I told her the truth. “Janice if I ever get pulled over by the cops and they question me about the smell, that patient is going down! I am not taking the fall for anyone for any reason.” We both just chuckled and she agreed with me. Seriously, I would not for a second think about risking my career because of the “smell” and I even like these people.

Tom is not the only Patient that I have had that has used the weed, calling for it for medicinal purposes. Now when we admit a patient as they do in the hospital, we ask about any drug or alcohol use. Most say no and there are those who simply won’t admit it. I had this one young gentlemen who was always in terrible back pain and he was on numerous narcotic pain meds and he just outright said it one day, ‘Oh yeah, I smoke a little weed here and there when I can’t get control of the pain.” I almost caught him in the act one morning, I came into his room and the odor was so strong, I couldn’t help myself, I started to cough. It wasn’t meant to insult him or let him know I knew what he had been doing; it was simply could not hold in the coughing. He laughed at me and apologized.

You would be naïve if you think I am the only visiting nurse who runs into the stuff….”wacky tobacky” we call it back at the office. Almost every nurse has their own story of the “smell” after all it doesn’t smell like a bed of roses and there is a great deal of people out there who for medicinal reasons want it legalized and will go down fighting if you try to take it away from them. Personally, I say legalize it, and then we can tax the hell out of it. Oops I stumbled over my soap box for a minute there, sorry.

This chapter isn’t about the weed that I often run into out there; it’s more about the ways that some are finding to cope with their illnesses and pain, whether it is legal or not, it is not up to me to judge them. Hell, my very own Grandmother grew it in the green house and used it for her “Glaucoma, “ many, many years ago. People cope in different ways and it is a good thing that, we as visiting nurses don’t find it our business to judge them; if we did it would take the fun out of the job and after all this job is fun.

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