Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This is my last day for this week at the main place. Today I started out sitting with another patient that I've encountered a few times already. This lady is not well at all and has visibly deteriorated since I started (PT AH). I am told she is dying. She has periods of lucidity that appear like clouds clearing in an overcast sky. Much of the time she is very confused. Since she's confused, and, probably, lonely, she tends to call for the nurse repeatedly having forgotten that she did receive her medications or that she did get her breakfast (which she doesn't usually eat anyway). She will frequently get an idea fixed in her head that someone significant is coming to visit, such as her doctor, which requires "order" around her bed. She is summoning help to tidy her table, her stuff on the window sill, the floor. Of course, there is no one coming. She does not understand that the nurses or myself, nor indeed, the PCAs cannot mop the floor, that that is housekeeping's job for which they have all the equipment and products, not us.
I spent a little more than an hour with her this morning. I got her talking about what she used to do, where she lived. She'd been conservatory trained as a pianist and singer. She used to sing Schubert Liede and similar material, but as a professional she'd sung soul and all kinds of genres. She had an ex-husband, a jewelry designer specializing in pearls and mother-0f-pearl. I joked that she must have lots of pearls and she assured me she did. We then spent some time trying to find a particular watch she had, a famous name. I could not find it, despite rummaging through the drawers in her bedside cabinets, in the tray table, and on the window sill. She also asked me about cars. I said I didn't have one. She asked me, "What's the most famous car you have?". I threw out a few different kinds. Finally, she told me Mercedes-Benz. That was the car she had. She hadn't had one for a long time, then, finally she got one: a Mercedes-Benz 320. A silver one. She seemed extremely proud of it. She then invited me for a drive, assuring me that she "wasn't a Lesbian" but that she'd gladly go out one afternoon. I thanked her and said that it sounded lovely.
We then had a long talk about her phone, which had stopped working (presumably because it had not been paid for). She asked if I had a phone to which I replied that I did, but that I didn't have it with me. Then she wanted to give me her phone number: after I'd found her MetroPCS phone on her tray table and she'd explained that that did not work anymore either. I said, "Well, you could give me your number but the only phone you have that works is this one [the one on her bedside table], and I'm right here! So, it'd be a little silly for me to call you." She agreed, laughing at how everyone would think this terribly funny.
So, we talked a little more, while I tidied her tray table somewhat, throwing out various things, an opened pudding, tissues, packets of pepper, salt, that will never be used. "Finally, order!" she stated. Then I sat with her again. From time to time I put my hand on her arm, gently moving it back and forth. "That feels so good." I was told. Her skin seemed so dry, inspite of the fact that, I'm sure, the PCAs or the nurse rub lotion on it. This is a problem for skin stretched out with the swelling of edema. It all becomes so fragile.
While I was there her nurse for the day came to give her some medications. One really upset her stomach, sort of acid upset not nausea. It took a while for it to start feeling better.
Previously I've been in this room, with this patient and have noticed the trappings, such as they are, of an existence. A letter from a lawyer, notes to staff she'd written herself when she was in a better state than she is now. A newspaper or two. (When I came in to start with, she started asking me about purchasing a paper with some elaborate story about some fundraising effort or something about a building collapsing - something knitted together in her subconscious confounding assorted memories compiled in such a way as to make no real sense).
It is truly interesting and, indeed a profound privilege, to have this glimpse into an existence. Clearly this lady had been stylish and of "good taste" at some point. She has Mont Blanc pens, Dior make-up, her eyebrows tatooed (or pencilled in? I cannot tell), her nails done. A lawyer who produces stays of eviction notices. A mouse for a computer that was in her bag - which I stumbled upon while trying to find that "famous" watch (R & R), another thing she'd wanted me to find.
She told me where she lived. I asked if she had children and she said that she'd been too busy, that there was already so much dealing with herself that they'd not had any. That there was too much sadness in the world. Then, seeming to apologize almost, she explained that usually she is a positive person that she didn't usually dwell on such negativity. I suggested that wasn't there also a lot of good things in the world. Despite agreeing, negativity seemed to have it.
For some reason I had to leave. I don't recall why. I looked in on her later in the day: she was either asleep or gazing at the window, or her nurse was dealing with her. I didn't have the chance to sit with her again. Probably I'll see her next week and ask her more about her career in music, at least, I hope I get to.

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