Monday, March 15, 2010

mr allen

he had the first room on the floor.
he'd been there before.
he just wasn't mine.
but i'd look after him when they'd go on break.

boy was he grumpy.
he was so grumpy.
his room was always overheated.
he'd always be under the sheets and blankets.
his windows were always closed.
the blinds were always pulled.
he always looked dead when you'd walk in.

one day,
he became my patient.
i don't know how that happened, but he just did.
i normally didn't get that side of the floor, but i did today.
and he was my patient.
i went in and "woke him up."
he was mad at me for that.
i said, "i'm sorry mr allen. this is the 3rd time i've come in. i let you sleep the first two times. you can even go back to sleep as soon as i'm done."
he said, "no i can't. i'm awake now."

me: "well then great, let's get you cleaned up and change your sheets and get you eating and all that good stuff."

mr allen: "no. i don't want to. i don't want to do any of that."

i was a bit of a pushover the first day i'd had him.
i'd pleaded a little bit, but he was as straight faced as they come and he wanted NOTHING to do with me or my ideas or assistance.

okay, fine.

but then he was my patient again the next day.
this morning when i went in to check on him, he was sleeping of course.
i didn't let him sleep through his vitals today.
for all i knew, he was faking it.
he just wanted to be left alone.
so i turned the light on and took his vitals....
he grumbled.

i fixed his breakfast tray.
and he ate. (although not much, he still ate)
there was no bargaining today.
this is what you were GOING to do.
i was not asking.
i was not suggesting.
yes, in fact, i was TELLING you this is how it was going to be.

he wasn't the happiest camper for sure.
i set up his tray halfway across the room
away from his bed and next to a chair.
we moved him to the chair.
it was all nice and cozy for him.
i pulled back the blinds,
let some sun in.

and i went to change his bedding.
i noticed a brown paper grocery bag next to his bed and a picture with him and a woman.
in his paper bag were some clean socks and underwear and an empty KFC container.
i asked who was in the picture with him.
it was his wife.

i didn't know he was married.
where was she?

she certainly wasn't there.
and if she were working,
then how come i'd never seen her before?
certainly she'd get weekends off? or SOME day during the week....
or at least nights....
certainly she had SOME free time,
but she was NEVER there....
the paper bag...
that was when she was there.
she came to give him a paper bag with clean socks and clean underwear and some KFC.
did she even bother staying with him to eat it?
just dropped it off and left.
REALLY lady?!
was it too emotionally difficult for her to stay and watch him like this?
i don't know.
i wasn't in her head.
i wasn't in her heart.
but i'm married now.
i know what our vows were.
i remember them like i just vowed them yesterday....
i remember our vows...
in sickness and in health....
he was sick.
she was not there.....
and i (being the codependent person that i am)
decided he was my mission.
i was going to tackle this bitterness he carried, if it took all of me....

the next day he had a fever.
it wasn't just a little bit of a fever.
it was a lot a bit.
nope, not there.
i'd filled up his basin with some cold water.
i'd filled up some gloves with ice.
i sat there for a good 35 minutes wiping his forehead, neck, chest, and arms down.
we were going to FIGHT that damned fever....
he hated me for the coldness of all of that.
but that's fine.
he could hate me all he wanted to.
i turned the heater off and i took the blanket off of his bed.
he despised me by now....
he wanted his blanket.
he wanted the heat.
he didn't want the blinds drawn
and he didn't want the cold.

i didn't say that, of course, but i was DETERMINED to fight his fever.
(he'd had it since the night before, but they hadn't been able to break it even after medication)....
it just amazed me that no one really took any extra effort to do anything else besides meds....
i mean, i'm no DOCTOR, but sitting there those extra clumps of 30 minute increments helped.

he was a long term patient.
he'd go.
he'd come back.
he'd go home.
he'd come back.
one time, i had the lovely opportunity of meeting his wife.
she was just as quiet and grumbly as he....
i talked with her in the waiting lobby for a few brief moments,
and i cannot tell you exactly the words we exchanged.
i don't remember them that well.
but i remember feeling my face get hot,
and my heart racing and wondering if at any time my superior would walk in and catch me talking to her...
i wondered if i was entirely out of place for what i'd asked and for wondering why she was never there.....

mr allen had gone home.
it was a few months before he came back.
i hadn't been disciplined for talking to her,
so maybe she didn't complain....
i'd HOPED she didn't complain.
but i only felt it was right.

you know, mr allen came back.
he was in poor shape, but he was in suuuch better spirits.
he was in one of the last rooms this time.... i think it was 514.
i'd walked in to check on him, and he smiled.
he WELCOMED me in to his room,
and INTRODUCED ME TO HIS WIFE, (who was THERE in the room with him, sitting next to him this time!)
that made me smile....
that made my heart warm....

i remember he'd asked for a piece of paper and a pen....
i didn't know what for, but i got him a piece of paper and a pen....
and i watched him shake as he wrote....
it took allllll of his effort to write out just a few short sentences.
my eyes watered, and as much as i wanted to jump in and write whatever he needed to get out, i just let him write....
he kept smiling at me.
he smiled at her.
he struggled.
and of course, my eyes watered some more.
i walked out.
for whatever reason, i didn't want him to see me soft.
i had fought like hell, and appeared FAR more tough than i really was, but i wanted to get to him.
i wanted to get in to his heart and "un-grumpy" him....
his letter was to the hospital about me.
he said, "i thank Ashley for taking such good care of me. she made it all worth it."
that's it.
(okay, *bawl!*)

i wondered everyday if he was just going to snap at me,
or complain about me,
or just flat out swing his fist at my face.
i was that rough on him.

"okay, i understand you don't want to get out of bed mr allen, but you have to. okay, come on, get up." i'd pull the sheets back.
oh he HATED me, i knew he hated me.
it was no secret....
but deep down inside,
he needed that.
he needed someone to PUSH him to do it,
because his wife wasn't there pushing him,
i did.

i pushed him.
and then i pushed his wife.
and then she was there.
and then to see him write.
i'd never seen him put forth ANY effort to do ANYTHING aside from grumbling at me....

grumble no more.
no more brown paper bags with kfc and clean socks and underwear.....
that warmed my heart, more than you can ever imagine.

folks, where would you be if your loved one ends up sick and in the hospital?
would you bring them food in a paper bag because the emotions would be too much to deal with?
i mean, really....
it's easy to say you'd be there....
would you go home every night smelling of hospital?
would you hold their hand?
would you kiss their face?
what if they couldn't talk anymore?
what if they couldn't clean themselves anymore....
where would you be?

i'd like to believe that whatever raw emotionally driven speech i gave to mrs allen is the reason she was there the next time.
hell, i don't know.
maybe she lost her job and now had the time to be there (if she'd had a job at all)....
whatever it was, they were together.
exactly where they should have been to begin with.
in sickness,
they were together.....


buymebarbies said...

OH Ashley!!! There you go again!! Your compassion that just won't quit and your love of people feeling good. If anyone can make a difference, you always do!!!

Pat Tillett said...

What a nice bittersweet story...
Too bad all hospital personnel don't have that much compassion. It makes a big difference