Tuesday, March 16, 2010

james and his poor heart.

now i've told you before, there is something about the smell (and sound) of walking into a patient's room who has an air mattress....
the air mattress is there because they can't turn over themselves and this is supposed to lessen their chances of getting bedsores....
however, many people likely already have bedsores and there's just something about the smell of bedsores on an air mattress when you walk in the room....

the sound of the machine that's attached to the foot of the bed....
it's a constant blowing sound.... like a muffled dustbuster (if you can imagine that)....
that's what it sounds like.... so you walk into the patients room and hear the sound of that machine.... i walked over to the sink to wash my hands, before i put on my gloves.... while washing my hands, i'd wondered what he'd look like...
would he look older than he was? would he look younger than he was? would he be able to talk? did he have his family here? were they nice? hopefully they weren't rude and bossy and mean....

and then i walked in.
"knock knock. can i come in?"

"hello good morning. yes. yes you can come in," i'd heard in the softest sweetest feminine voice ever....

i pulled the curtain back and there was a tall, slim woman with brown shoulder length hair, getting up out of her chair that was pulled up next to james.
she called him jim.
"hello jim," i said as i touched his hand. "my name is ashley, and i'm going to be helping to take care of you today."

he slightly moved his head, as if he was making an attempt to look up at me.
"that's okay. you don't have to get up. i'm just going to take your vitals okay?"
he didn't say anything, just rolled his head back down.
his wife said it was fine. he was just really tired.
so i'd taken his vitals.
i couldn't help but to notice his breathing....
it made the most awful sound when he'd breathe.
it was like he was gurgling water in his throat....
but that was his heart failure.... it wasn't as bad as it would become, but it was still very much noticeable to anyone who'd come in to the room.
i took his vitals, well what i could, and he was stable.... he was okay....
his wife wanted him to get some rest, as he hadn't had much good sleep the night before.
so i let them rest.
i went and cared for a few of my other patients and returned to check on them, as i hadn't been paged or heard from them for a bit.
his eyes were open now....
i'd cleaned him up and changed his clothes....
while cleaning him (and removing his socks), tons of flakes of skin came out of his socks....
he was nice and fresh.... but his skin....
his skin was sooooo dry....
his feet were flaking skin onto the air mattress....
when was the last time anyone had removed his socks?
didn't anyone else see how dry his skin was?
how long had it been like this?
i took extra special care of his feet....
cleaning them thoroughly and in between his toes.
i remember him smiling when i'd dried them and rubbed lotion on them.
i felt like a little lady in the nail salon, giving him a massage like that.... his skin was just sooo dry....
his wife said that was one of his most favorite things....
having his feet rubbed.
he LOVED it.
so i massaged his feet with lotion and wiped off the mattress and he was stylin....
he was fresh, and no more dry skin or flakes!
for the next few weeks, that was my treat for him....
after his bath, i'd massage his feet....
and then one night (while i was sleeping at home),
he'd made a turn for the worse....
i came in and his dear sweet wife, Jan, was there.
his sons were there.
and of course he was there....
his gurgling was the only thing you could hear....
it was so loud and just the most awful sound....
it's one of those sounds that stick with you forever....
he was on a morphine drip....
at this hospital, you could always tell who was on a morphine drip and who was going to pass away at the hospital....
the hospital would wheel in this wooden cabinet with a marble top.
it would have bags of chips, and bottles of juice... things like that on it....
it was as if to make it as comfortable and nice as possible (and usually the patients were too far out of it to know it was there, but their guests could enjoy the treats too)....
i would get that same gut-wrenching feeling when i'd walk into a room with the marble cabinets that i would get when i'd walk into a room with an air mattress....
i knew they wouldn't make it much longer....
and that made me sad....

i'd rubbed and lotioned his feet with his family for the very last time.... he'd passed later that night (during the night).... his family was gone when i'd returned the next day.
i was so sad i didn't get to say goodbye to them for the last time....

and then a few months later, i'd received a personal call on my floor.
i'd answered the phone, having no idea who would possibly be calling for ME personally, but it was Jan. she'd called to ask if she could come by and bring me lunch one day.
i told her she didn't have to, but she wanted to come so badly.
her voice, is still one that i can't ever get out of my head.....
she came one day while i was at the hospital, to have lunch with me.
we went to the cafeteria and this was in january sometime....
she had a small bag (gift) for me and said she'd wanted to see me sometime before Christmas, but she'd been so busy and unable to get ahold of me....
i opened the gift over lunch and it was a beautifully colored, wooden angel ornament.
the card had said "you were jim's angel.... you treated him so wonderfully and i know that he just loved that last foot massage you gave him. i know he was holding on until you were there that last day.... you will forever remain in my heart as having taken the absolute best care of him. thank you ashley."

okay, SOB!!!!

this last Christmas, as we all decorated our tree, i hung that angel, just like i have done every year since, and thought about Jim and Jan. It warmed my heart, just as it always does, to remember her sweet voice, and Jim's soft feet. I know that sounds a bit weird, (about the feet), but it reminds me of my dad, and that was one of his very favorite things for as far back as i can remember.... up until his passing.
when i'd gone out there to see him a few weeks before he'd passed, that's what he wanted me to do all day.... put hot wet washclothes on his feet and then rub them with lotion... he'd fall asleep to me doing that.... funny they both loved their feet rubbed like that.... they both passed of congestive heart failure (my father's being a complication of cancer).... jim's brother was from a small town just next to grand junction, TN, where my father was from.... such a small small world.... maybe it's just me and my overthinking.....
i love my angel ornament, and i'd loved that family.....
such sweet souls, branded my heart....

21 comments:

Pat Tillett said...

Darn you, Ashley King...
Bless you, Ashley King...

buymebarbies said...

Thanks for sharing those wonderful, heart wrenching stories with the world. They really touch your heart and show the compassion that you carry!!!

Mainland Streel said...

Ashley, your stories are so beautiful, and so sad. :(

When Danny's dad was passing, he spent the last month and a half of his life in a hospital. I had never thought about hospital staff much before that, but I mean it when I say that nurses are heroes to patients and to their families.

His dad's skin got dry, just like how you described. His feet were too swollen for me to press very hard, but right toward the end, I gave him a foot rub and lotioned his poor, cracked feet. This post made me think of that, and how happy it made him.

sarahjayne smythe said...

Thank you for sharing your memory.

Ashley King said...

thank you guys for reading my stoires.... like i've said before, they are forever etched in my heart, so when you do enjoy it, it makes me smile.... warms my heart. honest.

@mainland. isn't it such a great feeling, being a part of someone's last moments, but making them good last moments?? i think i love that part the most!

TS Hendrik said...

I came over on Pat's recommendation and I have to say wow. That is is extremely moving and very heart wrenching.

Ashley King said...

@TS. thank you, 1. for trusting pat's recommendation and coming over and 2. for the compliment. i'm glad you enjoy. =)

Chuck said...

I too came by on Pat's rec. What a thoughful and generous person you are. The world needs more like you!

Ashley King said...

@Chuck. thank you kindly for stopping by. and thank you very much for the sweet compliment. i'm glad God (and my parents) sacrificed my good looks and gave me the good heart instead....

Copyboy said...

Pat said I should give you a read and he (you) didn't disappoint. Wow, truly touching stories.

Ashley King said...

@Copyboy. why thank you! =) you know, i've thought of writing some kind of collection about all the stories, but wasn't sure many people would find interest in them. i'm glad there are still good people out there who can actually FEEL my stories.... good to know there are still good loving souls out there. thanks again! =)

Ms. Anthropy said...

Wonderfully touching. I have had the honor to talk to several people as they crossed over. It was an experience I truly treasure and hope to never forget.

Ally said...

I'm a new follower - saw you on Pat's blog. Just wanted to say, "Wow" ... that was painfully beautiful :(

PS Nice to "meet you" ...

Ashley King said...

@Ms. Anthropy, it is TRULY an experience that i hope to never forget as well. there is NOTHING like being there with someone (even a stranger) when they pass.... there's something about it.... i've made little stories in hopes that i'll never forget them either....

@Ally. thank you for trusting Pat, and for coming along. Thank you thank you.

All of the similar stories to these are under the label "Medical Days" .... I'm glad you all joined. =) thank you again.

Alle said...

My sister is in the same field. I have heard some sweet stories from her as well. I just wanted to say Thank you for being so compassionate. The world can use a few more of you.

Ashley King said...

@Alle. it's probably the most touching field to be in. (well, i guess that depends on the person, right?) no one ever needs to thank me for something that i love so much. =) i tell you, i started out a few years ago with a very high hope of somehow spreading LOVE across the world.... if sharing a few stories touches just a few people's lives and makes them think twice about how they're living and loving, then it would be a success.... i honestly haven't given that up yet....

The Queen said...

I just lived through this, the flaking skin he had, the horrid sounds, the death.. but we had the very best nurses that ever walked this earth. I love each and everyone of them I also went back to the hospital and found each of them to thank them for the wonderful care they gave the love of my life the last few days of his life.

Today.. say a prayer for a nurse. Who knows when you will want the best..

Andrea said...

I found your blog through Pat Tillet's - thanks Pat. This life experience so touches my heart. I had a mom who was left bed-ridden by Alzhiemers in her 60's. My dad had just passed away from what we think may have been a massive heart attack. That was, very easily, one of the hardest things of my life. Leaving her in the care of someone else and living away was a nightmare. People who care for others the way you did for this family are a true God breath! Thank you from anyone who has ever needed a person like you.

Ashley King said...

@The Queen.... I'm so sorry for your loss.... i am so HAPPY that you had kind souls to look after your love during those final days.... there really truly aren't enough of those good loving souls left.... but i AM glad you had one of them. i pray for our healthcare providers and caretakers and nurses every single day.... i pray that more people will join the field out of love for helping people rather than the pay and job security.... it is extremely difficult to work in that field and see others who aren't there for the right reason.... i do hope your heart has found peace these days.....

@Andrea. I am incredibly sorry for your losses as well. I have not yet lost my mother (thank God), but I did lose my father. Alzheimer's is SUCH a difficult thing to face. I have a few of those stories as well (not yet written, but very much fresh in my mind).... those were VERY difficult for me.... it was hard to listen to the family talk about how they "once were," or how they "never did this before," or would "never do this if they were in their right mind." it broke my heart..... it did. After 6 long years of battling cancer, my father passed away in November of 2007. I think Nursing was my way of feeling like i was somehow indirectly helping him.... i know that probably really doesn't even make much sense, but for whatever reason, i found it highly fulfilling and don't think that'll ever change. Thank you for your kind words.... =)

ASBLACKASOBAMA said...

Hello! Came here from Pat's blog.... That story was very touching. Thank you for sharing!

KellyBean76 said...

Also lured here by Pat's blog :) Very moving... my father's been ill for a long time and knowing that there are people working in healthcare who aren't hardened by it means so much. My father also loves to have his feet massaged...