Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Granny Nanny

She’s been old all my life.

Funny how you see things, smell things, live things every day, but they don’t always directly affect you.

I don’t know my patients. They are who they are when they present to me, they are not who they were before they did.

Yet, today was different. She was not who she presented to be, she was the shell of the woman I have always known. The old woman who always had a smile and a twinkle in her eye, a twinkle that seemed to become more mischievous the older she became.

“She smells today.” My mother noted.

I know that smell. I smell it every day. But not here. I do not know it here.

She had trouble opening her eyes. When she did she couldn’t see clearly. Couldn’t hear. Couldn’t understand what she saw, what she somewhat heard.

She kept asking who I was, she thought I was Chara, the one with the boy. I didn’t correct her.

Her hospice aid, Gigi, came and bathed her and gave her excellent care. She knew her. She said she was her pal.

Funny. I take care of perfect strangers all the time and here was my own, lying in her bed, on hospice, and I was watching her pal, Gigi.

I went to the kitchen and listened as the hospice nurse explained to my great aunt about the medications in the hospice kit. This is for this, this is for that, this helps with this.

Funny. I was hearing a lecture about medications I give regularly.

It was time to leave.

I went and sat on her bed.

“I’m ready to go, but I guess the Lord isn’t through with me yet”, she said. I smiled.

“Are you Phil’s?”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m Tara”.

“Oh, you have a boy”.

“No, that’s Chara, I’m Tara”.

“Oh”. She smiled. “That’s right, that’s Chara”.

And there was that twinkle. And for a moment she knew who I was. For a moment I was Tara.

I rubbed and patted her back.

“Oh, that feels good. I may go back to sleep,” she said.

I kissed her head and rubbed her back and looked at the body of my 104 year old great-grandmother.

Funny when the patient is yours. When the patient isn’t a patient. Funny to know who she was and not who she is.

“I’ll see you later” I whispered.

And left her for probably the last time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Beginning and End

I found myself standing at the foot of the bed, wondering about the day of their birth.

I wondered what the mother thought, how she felt as she held that new life in her arms. I wondered if she was full of joy and hope and excitement for this new life. I wondered if she, like Mary, had a song in her heart.

I wondered if there was a father in that room, smiling at the scene. I wondered if he bent down to kiss the crown of that head. I wondered what he felt.

I wondered because I found myself standing at the foot of the bed on what would be the day of their death. There was no mother, no father, no siblings, no children. There was no family for this life, this soul.

We waited until our shift was settled and then we went to our work. We: the nurse, the respiratory therapist, and me. We were the sole people surrounding this life who now lay in the bed.

I took the tube from the mouth and we stood there. We watched the rise and fall of the chest. We watched the monitor reveal the heart beats. We didn’t want her to be alone.

We waited.

My phone rang. Another patient needed something and I left the room.

I became busy.

My phone rang again. It was the nurse. The patient was no more.

I again found myself at the foot of the bed. I donned the stethoscope. I listened a final time to the chest. There was no rise and fall, no heart beat. I pronounced the patient, reported the time of death.

And then it was done. The life was over.

I stood alone in the room with the patient and wondered the course of their life. Wondered where the family went. Wondered where this body would go.

Hours later I passed the room: it was clean, the lights were on, the bed was made. It was waiting for the next life to come, as though the other had never been.

But it was. I remember.