Sunday, February 28, 2010

mr. higashi.

so i remember him putting his hand up in our faces.
he didn't want to eat.
he'd turn his head.
he didn't want to talk.
he wasn't rude.
he was Japanese.
he had cancer.
in his throat.
of COURSE he didn't want to talk.
it was in his esophagus too.
it turns my stomach when i think back to him.
but i loved that man and his family.
he wouldn't eat for anyone.
they told him he was going to have to have a G-Tube put into his stomach (feeding tube).
he didn't care.
he wasn't going to eat.
i remember going in there and literally pleading with him, trying to bargain with him to get him to eat.
he was slipping away.
much faster than we could even keep up with.
i remember all the different iv's and "vitamins" they'd feed him. they tried.
they really tried.

i remember one day, i cleaned his glasses.
i told him he didn't have to eat, but he was going to be clean.
he didn't have to eat, but he had to be cleaned.
he didn't like to be bathed.
he didn't want to be touched.
he just wanted to lie there.
he didn't want to wear his glasses.
he didn't want to move.

but this day,
we cleaned him up.
we combed his hair.
we cleaned his glasses and even put them on.
he let me.
and he smiled.
his food came in, and i asked what his favorite food on that tray was.
it was the chocolate pudding of course.
i leaned down and whispered in his ear, "i don't blame you. that's my favorite too!"
he smiled.
i told him we'd skip all the other stuff, and we'd eat the chocolate pudding.
he smiled.
and so we did
we skipped the other stuff on the tray....
the beef probably could have gotten up and walked away....
all the other stuff, just sat there. looked gross, i can only imagine how it tasted.
probably.... gross.

i spoon fed him chocolate pudding.
and he ate it.
each bite.
and he swallowed.
painfully, he swallowed.
the way he swallowed made me want to hold my throat and swallow for him.
he would squint his eyes as hard as he could, and SLOWLY gulp each bite....
if i could have swallowed for him, i would have.
i really would have.

it's the small things we take for granted, you know?
like being able to swallow.
put food in your mouth, chew it up and imagine you can't swallow it.
keep it there in your mouth as it gets even more soggy....
your mouth gets more and more full of saliva....
you just swallow it.
imagine what it would be like if you couldn't....

mr. higashi finally began to talk to me....
he motioned for me to come close to him,
and of course i did.
he said, "mmmm.... it's soooo good."
and he would smile.
this went on for a while.
on my days off, he wouldn't eat.
he just flat out wouldn't eat.
if i was working and someone else had him, he wouldn't eat.
i'd go in and feed him.
his family asked that i take care of him when i worked.
it was a bit flattering, but i wished he'd eat for others too.

he was a funny guy.
he began talking a little bit more with me.
i always asked him about his pain level, even while he was eating.
he'd say "no pain."
i said, "well you just made a face like that REALLY hurt."
he said "it's okay. im just acting."

i loved this man.
i mean i genuinely fell in love with his family.
every single one of them.

i remember the day that came when the dr said a decision needed to be made.
he needed nutrients and either he needed a G-tube placed or he'd be sent home to pass peacefully.
i remember that day his wife pulled me into the hallway and asked me what i would do.
she said she didn't know what to do and she hadn't ever imagined she would have to make a decision like that.
he wouldn't make the decision either.
he just put his hand up anytime anyone would talk to him.
he wouldn't eat.
he wanted all the tubes out of him.
he was trying to take them out himself.

i remember his wife sitting in a chair with a tissue to her nose telling me she never thought she would have to do this.... she was telling me about their life together and the fun things he did before he got sick.
i remember kneeling at her feet with my hands on her knees, crying too....

i found the journal entry from that day....
i kept my journal with me at all times, because sometimes.... sometimes it was just too much.
i was helpless.... again.
i was helpless and didn't know what to tell her, but we talked it through and she decided that he wouldn't have wanted to have the surgery and live that way....
so she took him home....
and he passed away 5 weeks later at home....

i found the card his family sent me with a much younger picture of him.
i cried all over again....
oh mr. higashi....
how you will be missed.

1 comment:

Pat Tillett said...

You have so much compassion for others. This one got to me...