Tuesday, January 25, 2011

holding hands.

They held hands.

Not in the way they used to, of course.

Her hair was curled—a white a-line bob. Crows feet framed her eyes. “He’s an ornery man,” she said. I wasn’t sure if the wrinkles were from years of joy or months of pain.

He gurgled.

And coughed.

And then tried to spit.

But that strong, 6-foot-2-inch man was no longer coordinated enough to even expectorate his own sputum. In more ways than one, he’d become a child again. Cooing. Gurgling. Pointing. Pulling at his gown, then her jacket, then the tubes and lines and electrode’s.

The words I imagine she once used in adoration toward the father of her children, words like “strong”, “handsome”, “helpful”, “leader” had turned into something entirely different.

Isn’t he cute?”, she giggled, “…just adorable.”

And if I didn’t know better, I might have guessed she was talking about her grandchildren—the ones who never knew their grandfather for the strong, handsome, helpful leader he was.

It hit him hard about five years ago. And to everyone’s surprise, he made his way into the Emergency Room because he “just wasn’t feeling right.” He left with a new diagnosis: Severe Progressive Dementia, Alzheimer’s-type. Low-and-behold, the atrophy had started. Amyloid plaques & neurofibrillary tangles set up house. Then ever-so-slowly and almost instantly, her big, strong husband regressed.

He forgot her birthday.
And then their anniversary.
Eventually, he forgot her.

And that’s when the words changed. The world’s changed, too.

But still, they held hands.

She said no treatments. And he couldn’t move his right side. Paralyzed, both of them—one by a stroke & the other by the stinging pain of love. She filled out the bright green form:


We disconnected the fluids. Took off monitor stickers that were so bothersome in the first place. The medicines were stopped, Hospice was started. And we waited. She waited. And he kept on grunting.

All the while, they held hands.

I saw those crows-feet again. And I knew. I knew they weren’t from pain. Or joy. Or even age.

They were from LOVE.

And it was then that I realized: love really is choosing the highest good for the other.

Even if sometimes, it means calling them cute, holding their hand, & letting them go…

Friday, January 21, 2011

in the meantime...

This might just be the year-that-the-blog-writer-got-sucked-into-the-hospital. Or not.

But gosh, these days it sure feels that way. Good thing? Sometimes.

So yes, in summary, I’ve been sucked into the hospital. Back in December, I was on OB catching babies & sewing up crotches (yes, I just wrote crotches on this G-rated space). And I realized about a week before Christmas when the cookies were coming in my the dozen & my scrubs were getting tighter that hey! Its Christmas next week! Which happened to be the exact same time I realized that hey! I haven’t bought any presents yet! Which, if you know my present-buying-one-year-in-advance-having-things-wrapped-by-November-obsession, it was so not me. But then again, I was nearing work hour 100 of that week…and barely remembered how to drive myself home after 26 hours on call…so all things considered, perhaps I wasn’t so out-of-it afterall.

And in the meantime, I do know that it is now January 21, 2011, today thankyouverymuch. I’ve only slightly re-entered humanity this month—don’t hold your breath, though, because I’ll be slipping away again into the venus fly trap called the hospital again for the next two months in just one short week.

Things at home? Well, ask Jon. He’s been totally amazing. Fixing up our house like Norm on This Old House. Doing laundry. Making dinner. Cleaning, even. Holy poop I’m  a lucky girl. And to top it all off, he still listens to me complain about work and time and unchecked-to-do-lists. He’s been awesome.

And me? Well, I’m just hanging on.

I hear this year, this intern year, is rough. And for the residents with kids & families & like, other real people to take care of, KUDOS to you. because I can barely find time to clip my toenails.

The truth is that this has been a reality-laden transition for me. I—me, my own self—has always been the manager of my time, the control freak with the calendar, the weirdo with the day-planner tucked sweetly under my wing. But this year? ALL OF THAT CHANGED. And suddenly I was finding my schedule—my DAY LONG LIFE SCHEDULE—in my mailbox at work. And next to it, my lecture schedule. And next to that my night-call schedule. And next to those, my evaluations and articles to read and prescription requests to refill from patients. And it was around mid-November when I finally had that holy crap moment that I realized: life has changed.

Me? I’m no longer in charge of my own time. And jon? He’s still awesome. And while we try to hang on in the  meantime; while I make more messes at home than I clean up, dirty more laundry than I clean, & eat more meals than I make, I’m learning slowly to accept the fact that I just have to get through it. no shortcuts. No easy-outs. Just holding hands. And wiping tears. And writing orders. And refilling prescriptions. And coming home to hugs from Jon. And falling asleep on the couch even before dinner is made. And just existing.

I have four months of call left for this year. Which means I have four more months to make it through long shifts. And erratic schedules. And long days and short nights and exhaustion and not seeing daylight. From now to then—then when I’m done & might be able to enjoy more than one afternoon off in the sunshine…I’m just holding on. I have a billion stories to share. A million things to pass along. Some hilarities in between.

We’ll get there…eventually.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have deadlines to meet, patient charts to complete…and toenails to clip.  

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