Feb 14 2013 in Community Caregiving Journal by Peggikaye
The girl was new and she looked at him — his salt and pepper hair, scruffy beard — he still doesn’t look nearly old enough to be handing over one of *those* cards. At 56, he’s not. His is worn and frail. He’s had it since he was 18. Her eyes took in his entire presence and the surprise left her face. A mix of emotions rushed to my awareness. Sadness that it was so obvious. Jealously that the look I get is one of dismissive judgement when I come up against someone who wears their judgement on their face. Frustration that he is ONLY 56 and she’s right. Anger at the pity that followed as her judgement melted away. It seems people who wear these emotions so boldly can’t ever get to compassion, empathy and acceptance but shuffle between judgement and pity as they decide if you are deserving or undeserving of their carefully doled out compassion. I wonder if she knows she wears her judgements on her face. I wonder if age will sand those down or chisel them in deeper? We sit down to wait and I let her go — she is not who we are here to see and she is not likely to be here the next time we come. Thankfully, people like this don’t last long at this doctor’s office.
The nurse gets us right after we sit. Don is weighed and the nurse and I refrain from doing a cheer routine as he registers 97.4. She about yanks him off before it can settle to a lower rate. The protein drinks have helped him to add on three pounds! Every ounce counts at this point. This news is good and at this point, we’ll take all the good news we can get.
She checks his vitals and notices his blood pressure is harder to hear. She looks at me and teases me, asking if I’m sneaking him one of my medications that makes mine hard to hear. That leads to a discussion on post polio research and how that med had been researched for treatment for it … maybe we should. Tongue in cheek of course –the research led no where but to a bunch of uncomfortable side effects for the polio patients. The nurse’s concern over his blood pressure sound seemed out-of-place for her — my husband and I wonder: Is this more news to worry about or is this nurse being cautious with one of her favorite pests? (patients)
The doctor comes in just as the nurse is finishing, anxious to see my husband. She always beats the nurse out — no waiting for Don. They like him. He’s king in this office.
She goes over anything that’s new and well — there is a lot … and that news doesn’t sit well.
Increased dizziness–Several falls — full body drops — increased numbness in hands — and feet
She begins her exam and her words begin to drip in the air like an unwelcome winter ice storm
significant global weakness
significant decrease of reflexes
significant decrease of pain response in hands/feet
The words drip until they seem to be coming down like a blanket of ice … you have already outlived your life expectancy.
There is no reason you can walk –but you can.
No one wants to hear this, it’s hard, no one wants to say it, it’s hard.
We discuss assistive devices.
The blanket becomes heavier and thicker and colder …
She looks at Don and she tells him, “You’re able to do things that no one can figure out how. You walk without enough muscle tissue in your entire body to support a leg. You move around, you breathe, you live with scoliosis way beyond what is considered compatible with life. Keep living until you can’t. ”
My husband looks at me and says
We are always arguing about who is more stubborn, she thinks she is, I think I am — I’m living just to prove I am.
The ice is broken and laughter clears the air as the blanket disappears and the words no longer drip down … the news was not good … but life is.
Her final words to us as we walked away also dripped … but more like warm chocolate from a chocolate fountain on Valentines Day.
Treasure every moment — you two have something incredibly special.