Christopher Moore Home Page

The bulletin board is currently closed to new posts. Instead, why not check out Chris' Twitter and Facebook pages? Forum Index -> Blog Comments

Stories to share...Thanks for the push Sarah Leigh

  Author    Thread This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics. This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.

Joined: 02 Sep 2004
Posts: 2247
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Stories to share...Thanks for the push Sarah Leigh  Reply with quote  

I was the caretaker for both mom and dad. Good thing they had a sense of humor. Aaaahhhh Dad. He liked growing stuff and building stuff. The growing stuff was a cactus garden and like Theo, he grew the plants...unlike Theo he didn't smoke. So one August evening I went into the living room. Mom was a little lady but just don't piss her usually ran. I looked at her and cringed searching for anything to take the blame off me...which I did...a LOT. "I didn't leave the towel on the plant!!!"..."No" she says as smoke is pouring out of every orifice and me expecting her skull to split "Look outside". So out I go and there is a whole platoon of police cars. I couldn't help it. So back in I go and say "Mom, it could be worse. He could have a lab out in the garage instead of remote control model airplanes. Oh. Wait why not Turkish poppies? So not to worry ... he'll get off in a few years for good behavior." Finally we're laughing and in comes Dad. "Wheew it's safe." Mom: "No it's NOTTTTTT! You ...are...tearing...out...that ... PLANT ... NOW!" Mom always won...

So when he got sick he said he'd wished he still had the plant when I reminded him he didn't know how to smoke it. He looks at me and I should have remembered he always knew how to trap us kids with patience saying "But you do". We shared this story with my brothers they couldn't believe it when we spread Dad's ashes with a remote control model airplane... Next story.

I never told Dad how I was going to take care of the ashes. So about a year before he died I pulled in my daughter and said "This is what I want to do. We'll take the plane he and I built and spread them with that, crashing the plane." "Oooohhhh", says she "I like that." The day comes and all the ashes won't fit into the cockpit. You have a bunch of 70-80 year old guys waiting for the time and getting misty eyed. So we put part of Dad in a dixie cup. The ashes spread and by now all these old guys, my daughter, my brothers and their wives are crying uncontrollably. I'm secretly smiling because I knew he'd find it cool. That night and I kid you not, I had a dream about him. He had the thumbs up sign and smiling like a fool as if to say "Good Job". He knew when I didn't have to tell him.

Your turn!!! Gof for it

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 7:27 am   View user's profile Send private message
Site Admin

Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
 Reply with quote  

Great story, JB.

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 12:55 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
Lisa M

Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1844
Location: Rhode Island
Funny death stories  Reply with quote  

I have two funny bits. My old boss Vianne was clearly dying of pancreatic cancer. She had had a tough time when her oldest son converted to Mormonism -- as a Southern Baptist, she was not comfortable with the concept of giving over a deceased's soul to the church for saving, which is how she understood the Mormon practice. (I have no idea if this is accurate or not.) In any event, one day she looked out her second-story bedroom window and said to my friend Betty, "There are Mormons out there. I want you to kill them." Betty, being quick of wit replied, "I don't see them." Vianne said, "They're there. They're wearing red cloacks." To which Betty responded, "I don't think I know how to kill anyone, Vianne." "Ask Clyde, he'll know," came the directive. Clyde was her brother -- a CIA operative.

The other story concerns my father who died this past March. As a young man (they were roughly the same age) he looked remarkably like Marlon Brando. My older brother inherited the same looks. My dad was rather delerious in the last week -- he looked up at Jim in some confusion and sai, "Who are you?" Jim laughed and said, "You ought to know, I look just like you." Dad replied, after a pause, "You poor sonofabitch." (Which I assure you had nothing to do with our mother!).

Anyhow, these moments helped us tremendously -- little nuggets of character.

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:13 pm   View user's profile Send private message
Site Admin

Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 3833
Location: People Republic of Northern California
 Reply with quote  

These are great stories, you guys. Please, continue to share. It's like a Reader's Digest humor section: Death in these United States, or somthing.

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 1:24 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website
conspiracies unlimited

Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Posts: 4281
Location: California
Cancer and Dementia  Reply with quote  

My father-in-law died of cancer several years ago... I spent Thanksgiving with my wife's family the week before he died... He had been pretty sick and I opted not to bother him before dinner, as I knew he needed to rest. When my bothers-in-law brought him down to the table, I went over to say hi, and as I do with most people, I stuck out my hand and said, "Hi, how ya doin'?"
To which he responded, "Why is it, whenever someone is DYING of cancer, some asshole asks, 'how ya doin'?" Well, quite frankly, I'm DYING."

Needless to say, everyone was quite shocked by the response. My wifes borthers started babbling like idiots, trying to explain that I didn't mean it like that, the women folk all burst into tears, and the caterers dropped one of the turkeys.

Now, most people would have apologized... not this fucktard... I simply said, "Oh shit."

At wich point, my F-in-law, smiled and said, rather calmly, "Would you people shut the hell up? If the kid can't take a joke, Fuck 'Im". He then,smiled from ear-to-ear, took my hand, and said, "Its about damn time someone stopped being a pussy, and asked me how I'm going... Actually, I'm doing pretty good for guy who's about to die. Thanks, for asking." He then looked at his eldest son, and said, "Since he's the only person to ask how I'm doing, he gets to sit in your seat, tonight."

Happy F'in Turkey-Day!!!

When I grand-father was in his 90s, he suffered several heart-attacks, and a minor stroke. This and old age, lead to what appeared to be the lose of his mental faculties.

My oldest son was about 2, he and the family dog had the same name; Nicholas... and like most small children, he would crawl around under the table for no appearent reason. Most evenings, Nick (son) would sit under the table next to my G-Father, and Pa would feed him scraps off his plate...

My mother and sisters, would tell him to stop, and he would make comments about what a good dog nick was, and how he deserved a little treat now and then. Then he would make him do tricks (sit-up, roll-over, bark), and then toss him a scrap of food. This is my son mind you... and Nick, like most small children, loved this game.

Now, my GF had a "living will" -- ie, DO NOT RESUCITATE order.
My mother couldn't face losing her father, so she had the court declare him incompetent -- dementia, thinking the boy was a dog a really helped her case.

One night he had another heart attack, and he was brought back from the brink... when I went to visit him in the hospital, he grabed my arm, and begged me to let him die. I asked, "Why?"

Expecting some profound answer, like, "I've lived a long and good live, my time is over", or I miss your grandmother" (she had died several years earlier)... I was shocked by the answer I got...

"I can't take your mother's cooking any more. Why do think I keep feeding your son under the table?"

"You know thats Nick, not the dog?"

"Of course I know he's your son, but he make one hell of a pet"

He died about 2 weeks later... After being sent home to live with my mother, he refused to eat... If I were him, I would have refused to eat too!!!

Even though both men died slow painful deaths, they still maintained a little bit of dignity, and both never lost their sense of humor...
You are so whack.Wiggity whack?Nope, just the regular kind.
You can't dust for vomit
This is the Governor's wife. -- You mean she's not the hooker?
It's time to separate the awkwardly feminine from the possibly canadian

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:08 pm   View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 16 Apr 2004
Posts: 3423
 Reply with quote  


My father was thirteen years older than my mother, so we always thought she'd outlive him...she didn't. His first wife died and when they buried her they put a double headstone with her name and my father's (his date of course was left blank). For years, he used get teased by mom about when they both had died that he'd have a wife on each side of him giving him "hell". Now everytime I visit their graves I laugh thinking about that.

My mother died from lung cancer. She was in the hospital and we were staying with her as they said it would be anytime. She died at about 7:00 in the morning. The night before she died...she sit up and said, "What time does Dynasty start?" Some of you will remember the tv show. That was so weird.

By the of my sisters and myself have both thought we've heard our mother say our names at various times after her death.
Book: A garden carried in a pocket. Arabian Proverb

Last edited by Lib on Tue Nov 30, 2004 9:05 pm; edited 1 time in total

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 2:43 pm   View user's profile Send private message
Sara Leigh

Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 7385
Location: Virginia
 Reply with quote  

When my mother made the decision to stop treatment for the cirrhosis that wasn't going to get better (a "side effect" of one of those miracle drugs for rheumatoid arthritis), she was given about a month. She lasted about three weeks. My two sisters and I took shifts going up to Elkton to keep her and my father, who was utterly devastated, company. They would have celebrated their 57th anniversary two weeks after she died. We contracted with a private firm to have a caregiver there 24 hours a day so that we could spend more quality time with her. Hospice care in Elkton is a joke.

All her life, my mother was always in charge -- of everything and everybody, but particularly my father. Now that she was bedridden for the most part, he started wearing the same thing every day because she wasn't right there when he got dressed. One day while my sister Elaine was there, my mother called my father to her room. This was accomplished by blowing one of those annoying little party-favor whistles to get someone to come running and find out what she wanted. She gave him an exasperated look and in no uncertain terms told him, "Take off that shirt and those pants, and put them in the laundry!" She's probably rolling in her grave now (or would be if she hadn't been cremated); he's taken to wearing the same thing every day, only changing when one of us arrives on Friday and tells him to put everything he's wearing in the laundry before going to bed.

One day my mother was expecting one of her friends for a visit, and she wasn't going to let impending death prevent her from looking her best. I was in the kitchen, trying to get breakfast ready, when Shelby, our least capable caregiver, came running in saying my mother wanted her makeup case. Thus I became "Makeup Girl" and was called on whenever she wanted to get fixed up for a visitor or anything else of a grooming nature. She didn't trust anyone else to find the right things.

We rented a child-size wheelchair so she could sit in the living room and look out the window. So at least once a day, we'd wheel her around the house. I know the real reason she wanted this was to make sure everything was where it should be. She wasn't making sure everything was there, but that it was in the right place. The woman ruled with an iron fist. And it was comforting to see that she was still the same person, still as tenacious about things, even though she had accepted that it was time for her to go.

One Thursday after my sister Rosie left, my mother entered the "final" phase. When I arrived on Friday evening with Jane and my cousin from Atlanta, my mother was barely there. The transformation was dramatic, and it was unfortunate that we weren't prepared for it. By Saturday afternoon, she was gone. She hung on long enough for Rosie's kids to get there -- the only ones she hadn't gotten to see during these last weeks.

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 3:50 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger
Ted J

Joined: 14 Nov 2004
Posts: 669
Location: Northern VA
 Reply with quote  

Mine is not so much about a caregiver experience, but about the last day I spent with my paternal grandfather. He was visiting my parents in Texas and we had a big family dinner the day before he went back home to Wisconsin. My dad's older brother and sister were there as well as my own siblings. It was a great day and I spent most of it sitting with my grandfather listening to stories about how he grew up, how he lived through The Depression, and how he met my grandmother (he took her on their first date in a car with a rumble seat). Most of the stories I'd heard before, but in recent years he had gotten very reminescent. With every story he had about his life, he remembered a joke or two (he had a million of them). I kick myself today for not writing them all down when I had the chance. Henny Youngman had mothing on this guy.

later, we were all gathered at the dinner table swapping jokes and telling funny stories. My grandfather started telling us about an episode from his childhood. He and his best friend decided to go into business together. Their plan was to buy a monkey and rent it our for birthday parties. So, they mail ordered a monkey from some company in New York and eventually it was delivered. They named the monkey Winnie. Unfortunately, Winnie was a little more than they bargained for. Winnie had no desire to be domesticated in any way. The first time the monkey was hired for a party it went on a rampage and bit several children. Needless to say that was Winnie's last gig and she was soon donated to the local zoo.

We laughed so hard throughout the telling of this story (he told it much better than I just did). No one at the table had ever heard of this episode in my grandfather's life. As I mentioned earlier, he was quite the storyteller and we'd heard most of what he had to tell. No one was quite sure if he was having some fun with us or if the story was actially true. We continued to joke and laugh throughout the rest of dinner. At one point I glanced over at my grandfather. He was sitting quietly surveying the scene. He was surrounded by his children and grandchildren; everyone laughing and enjoying each other's company. You could see the contentment in his face. I got the sense that he knew he was on borrowed time and was proud to see that this was the legacy he was leaving behind.

A few months later he passed away of a heart attack at his home, sitting in his favorite chair, watching a ballgame (I can only hope for such a sublime exit). He was 83 years old and had lived a full life. At his funeral, we ran into a couple of gentlmen who grew up with my grandfather. Because they were some of the last remaining people still alive from the old neighborhood, we knew this was only chance to confirm the story of Winnie the rampaging monkey. Sure enough, though the memory was fuzzy from many passing years, they did recollect that the story was true.

But really, the confirmation didn't matter. It was the time I spent with him that day and the look on his face during dinner that I will remember so fondly. I now have a one year old daughter who just loves to laugh and tell stories (granted, they're all in the jibberish language of a one year old). They never knew each other (it's been five years since he left us), but my little girl's laughter is that legacy my grandfather saw as he looked around the dinner table that day.
"I don't want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career."
-- Lloyd Dobler

Post Tue Nov 30, 2004 9:49 pm   View user's profile Send private message

Joined: 07 Mar 2004
Posts: 1582
Location: Massachusetts
 Reply with quote  

My grandfather was one of the most resourceful people I've ever met. He grew up during the Great Depression, and was a WWII vet, and waste drove him crazy. If he made chicken, he got every last scrap of meat off of the bones before throwing the carcass away (that is, on the rare occasions he didn't use the carcass to make broth). If something broke, he fixed it or found another use for it. He was incredibly proud, as well, and would never accept any kind of charity - my mom has admitted that they probably should have been on some form of welfare while she was growing up (she's the eldest of five children), but my grandfather wouldn't have it, and they made the best of what they had. They were lucky that the building they lived in was built by my grandmother's father, so if they were paying rent or a mortgage, it wasn't a big one, which probably saved them.

By the time his children had grown up, he and my grandmother were doing quite well for themselves. The neighborhood they lived in had deteriorated over the years, and by the time they moved out of the house my mom was born in, there were drug busts and shootings on the street every night (my grandmother used to listen to the police scanner while peeking out through the curtains). My great-aunt still lives there, and the last time we were there, it looked like the residents have been restoring and rebuilding - it's a pretty nice place to live once again. (Those of you in Mass., I'm talking about Dorchester, a street connecting Dot Ave and Adams St.). Anyway, a few years before he died, my grandparents moved out of Dorchester and down to Cape Cod. They bought a great little house, and there were enough fix-up projects to keep him happily occupied.

One afternoon, my grandfather discovered the weak spot on the porch by falling part way through it - up to just about his knee, right through the wood. He had a nasty scratch, but we didn't really think much of it. He didn't go see a doctor about it. Not long after, he started having trouble walking - we all thought it was because of the fall. But, rather than go and rent a wheelchair, what did he do? Found some casters and ball bearings and god only knows what else, and made one of the dining room chairs into his own hand-made wheelchair. My grandmother was horrified, but what could you do? It was the funniest thing, watching him tool around the house on it.

It was right around then that he was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease. The hardest thing was seeing the frustration on his face when we were all down there, doing things for him that he wanted to do himself but was no longer able to. He had made his living as a plumber, but one of his true passions was cooking. Up until he died, you could be sure that as soon as you set foot in the kitchen, he'd be right behind you in his "wheelchair", supervising. (The supervising, of course, mainly consisted of "No, no. You're doing it wrong. Oh, JEE-sus! Give me that spoon.")

When he died, I was asked to write his eulogy. It was a damn hard thing to do, but write it I did. When I got up to speak, I think the priest was expecting this sweet little teary speech, but that wouldn't have been right. Instead, I told the story of how he made corn on the cob: husk the corn, get rid of the silk, but leave a few leaves attached. Then tie the leaves around the corn like a little bathrobe (using pieces of husk to tie it). Then go ahead and boil or grill it or whatever. It holds in the moisture. I still do it to this day (it drives Hillary nuts when she helps me shuck the corn if we're having a cookout in the summer). If you got caught trying to put the ears in the pot "naked", my grandfather would come and find the culprit, sit them down and MAKE you do it right. Inevitably, my mom or my aunt Mary or myself would end up with a lesson when we got lazy.

He was also very big on buying things made in America. At Christmas, we had to be very careful with his presents. The man actually checked the labels on his gifts, and if he found something made anywhere other than in the good old U.S. of A., you got an earful. Any time we wrapped gifts, there would be a little assembly line for his: one person to cut out any tags of things not made in the states, one to double check that you'd found all the tags, one to actually wrap the gift (after triple checking). When I told that story during the funeral mass, everyone in the church was laughing. The priest looked horrified that I had dared inject some humor into the occasion. But hey, it was a good memory, and everyone there had experienced it.

Okay, sappy time. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner this year, for my parents, my in-laws, my uncle and my grandmother. Last Saturday, my mother called me. She said, "I talked to Gram, and she wanted to make sure you heard this. She said dinner was wonderful and you did a very good job. She said Pop-pop would have been so proud of you." I just sort of sat there, tearing up (oh, hell, here I go again, getting all teary at work). So, yeah. He's sort of always there, whenever I'm cooking. Instead of "What would Jesus do?", it's "What would Pop-pop do?". I like to think I'm a pretty good cook because of him.
Well, I guess you left me with some feathers in my hand.

Post Wed Dec 01, 2004 8:04 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website AIM Address ICQ Number
Sara Leigh

Joined: 02 Mar 2004
Posts: 7385
Location: Virginia
 Reply with quote  

It's funny you should feel like your Pop-pop's there when you cook. I sometimes find myself asking my mother to help me do her recipes right. And I think my sisters and I each sort of channel different aspects of her from time to time. Weird but comforting.

Post Wed Dec 01, 2004 9:53 pm   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website Yahoo Messenger

Joined: 18 Aug 2004
Posts: 300
Location: South of FRANCE
Deathbed Humor, Part 1  Reply with quote  

My father was in the hospital and suffered a coronary and died on the table. He was revived, and I got to talk to him a bit about it afterwards, before he really died of a subsequent coronary a few weeks later.

He was not a religious man. Far from it. But he dealt quietly and gracefully with the fact that two of his sons and his wife turned into meditation teachers and spent a great deal of their time thinking and talking about Things Spiritual. And he never attended church. He was raised a Quaker and never got into the preaching thang. But after my mother mentioned the first coronary to the pastor of her church, he dropped by to see my father in the hospital.

I wasn't there for the actual conversation, but as my father related it, the pastor was doing his best to cheer my father up, and it turned out working the other way. The pastor kept talking about faith -- faith in God, faith in an afterlife, faith in consciousness continuing after death, that kinda stuff. My father tolerated it as long as he could, but then stopped him and said, "Pastor, I know that you mean well, but what you're talking about is faith. I've been there. And back. It's not a matter of faith for me. You don't have to deal with my fear of dying. I have none. Lighten up, fer chrissakes."

Then they both laughed.

Post Thu Dec 02, 2004 2:03 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

Joined: 18 Aug 2004
Posts: 300
Location: South of FRANCE
Deathbed Humor, Part 2  Reply with quote  

An excerpt from a story I wrote a while back, about clowns:

My own brief career as a clown took place in Florida. I was on my way to visit someone in the hospital, not particularly looking forward to it, when I spotted a magic and novelty store in one of those endless Florida strip malls. I stopped and browsed around for awhile, trying to put off the inevitable. I toyed with the idea of buying some Shure Scratch itching powder to put on my coworkers' keyboards back home, but then thought better of it and walked on. I was just about to leave when I noticed a display of kids' clown costume kits by the door. They were on sale, so I bought one.

I drove the rest of the way to the hospital and took the clown kit in with me and made my way to the intensive-care ward. I don't know if you've noticed, but hospitals are not exactly the happiest places in the world, so when I paused outside the door of the room I was visiting to put on my floppy shoes, clown hat and big red nose, not one of the passing doctors or nurses or visitors laughed. They just stared at me as if I were weird. Go figure.

Anyway, I ignored them and opened the door, leaping inside with all the grandiose, circus-tent overacting I could muster. As it turns out, my entrance was even more clown-like than I intended, because I tripped over the floppy shoes and fell flat on my face.

No one laughed. The woman propped up in the hospital bed had her eyes open, and could clearly see my pratfall, but made no reaction at all. I didn't take it personally. The woman was in her mid-sixties, with short gray hair, and was terribly overweight. She had the kind of eyes you suspect would light up a room when she smiled, but she wasn't smiling, and her eyes, even though they were open, didn't see me standing there. The woman was my mother, and she had suffered a stroke a few days earlier.

I don't know how many of you have ever dealt with a stroke victim. It's very frustrating. The lights are on, but you can't tell if anyone's home. Given the severity of the stroke, the doctors were convinced that my mother was brain-dead, and that there was nothing going on behind those staring eyes. Even though I had seen nothing to contradict them, I was convinced they were wrong she was in there somewhere, and if I found a way to make contact, I could get her to respond.

So I had remained by her bedside for much of the previous few days, trying whatever I could think of to provoke a response. I talked to her, told her stories, read to her from spiritual books and from newspapers. I slipped earphones over her head and played her music classical pieces, pop songs, New Age stuff from Vangelis and Zazen. Since my mother meditated, I verbally walked her through the process and then sat meditating with her, hoping she'd remember how. No response. Nada.

So that morning I had awakened with the thought that I should try humor. Thus the clown paraphernalia. So far, it had not exactly been a big hit. I danced and gesticulated wildly, hoping that my movements would trigger some recognition. I pranced around, showing her my floppy shoes, punctuating my mock ballet by honking my big red nose. No response. This went on for hours. It was a tiring and frustrating process, but I had decided that I wasn't going home until she responded.

I tried harder. I did impressions, I talked in funny voices, I told her every joke I could possibly remember. I told her puns so bad they would raise the dead, but they didn't reach her. Finally, I remembered an old joke I hadn't thought of in years.

Mickey Mouse has hired a private detective to follow Minnie. The detective is delivering a report on her activities to Mickey: "Well, Mr. Mouse, I've been following your wife for a week or so, but I can't find any evidence that she's crazy."

"Crazy?!" shouts Mickey, "Who told you she was crazy?"

The detective says, "You did, Mr. Mouse, when you hired me."

Mickey says, "I didn't say she was crazy I said she was fucking Goofy!"

My mother loses it completely! She laughs and laughs, her huge, overweight body shaking like the proverbial bowlful of Jell-O. I lean over the bed and look into her eyes and there is life there. She still can't talk, but she definitely recognizes me. My mother squeezes my hand briefly, and gazes into my eyes, and smiles. I was right earlier it does light up the room.

Postscript: My mother died some time later, without displaying any other signs that she was still "in there" behind those staring eyes. But this moment was enough.

Post Thu Dec 02, 2004 2:10 am   View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail Visit poster's website

Being cast in the role of "grim-reaper" ...  Reply with quote  

From September 1981 to May 1986 ... I played a different role, I was on the medical side of the equation. As much as no one would trade out the "function" of being the ferryman for the Stygian-gurney, many times it going to the house ... being the person who took the father/husband/brother, or the wife/mother/grandmother away from their home ... too often, for the last time.

It was all but a grim-reaper assignment, oh we were wearing white and stethoscopes ... no hooded cloaks, no scythe, no boney hand come to "collect" a loved one, but you had more than a clue, you'd been there before, oh the faces and the families were different yet the same. I'd been pre-med in college, in addition to the hard sciences (easy to me, but ...) ... was the social sciences. In a Sociology class, was the wisedom of Kubler-Ross's studies. And classes in Medical Ethics (choosing the recipient of a kidney was interesting; and as they explained informed conscent, I saw many "violations"). But I'd been on the "family" side myself.

I have quite a few such experiences, but one of the one's ... one of many really, that stands out. It's one I both wish I had done differently, and yet for other reasons it was a good choice. In this particular case, the family had called ahead and arranged to have an older women living in Batavia, to be transported to "Roswell" in Buffalo. "Roswell," at least in Buffalo, does not conjure up images of UFOs, and slender big-headed big-eyed aliens ... In Buffalo, Roswell is a research hospital and treatment center devoted to cancer.

When we arrived it's only the old couple, husband and wife, except for him in clothing (black and red plaid flannel shirt, couldn't tell you what pants except that he WAS wearing some. The wife is dressed, as if, for bed. She is skinny, almost beyond belief skinny, and really ... the husband didn't look all that much better.

Shortly after we arrive, a daughter arrives, she's a lot more engaging, and had probably helped arrange for us to take this trip. Despite the circumstance, she's easy to talk too. In a way I felt bad for kind of shunning the husband, to the point of ignoring his input, now in favor of the daughter. In part because ... well, she's much cuter. Under any other circumstances, I would have liked to have asked her out (or to get enough info to ask later), but obviously this wasn't the time.
I did feel bad for shunning the husband, YET, he had probably live a lifetime with his wife, in this house, and I'd rather not swamp him with a lot of questions, almost probing questions, when his life is about to change. When this could be the last time they were together in the house, and you want him to have that moment without me, the Grand Inquisitor, asking the same damn questions he's had to answer too many times before, taking away from spending the moments with her.

Another reason, perhaps that talking to the daughter was a little better. And I doubt if it applied in this case ... when the name Roswell comes up, there is a certain stigma; but everyonce in a while, you run across a family that doesn't want the patient to know, or they aren't telling the spouse, or a hundred other variations that suck ... that YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF. Let me give you some insight ... unless it robs their mind early, the patient KNOWS, and the spouse KNOWS when they are sick and "cancer" will come to mind ... so unless there is a whole mountain range of denial, TELL THEM. At least let the doctor tell them, if you don't know how.

I do remember helping the women gently to the stretcher. She was able to stand and transfer herself to the stretcher with a steadying arm. Thinking that is a great kindness, that she was strong enough to help herself, that is wasn't us snatching her out of bed and wisking her away, like perhaps she had passed already ... or that we were taking her, as if we weren't going to wait for that final breathe. The head of the strecher is up, like a lounge-chair but with wheels, and not a shroud-on-wheels.
I don't remember the actual transport all that well, except that is was quiet, like when we arrived at the house. Oh, little things like "Are you warm enough?" Granted it's only an hour trip, but it can be a LONG hour when there's little to write, and even less to say. In Batavia, you got ten or fifteen minutes, you can always fake working on the report for that long so you can deliver the patient and shrug off the "coming end" of the medical drama. Maybe that's why the daughter was such a relief at the house ... because she was inclined to talk.

She drove the husband up ... and arrived about the same time we did. She thanked us as we were heading back to Batavia, Most of the time you try to give some helpful or wishful statement about getting better, or something. It wasn't so much awkward, that moment of silence where the "feels better" statement would go; that I hoped it was understanding, and a degree of condolences without really saying it, well, before it occurs.

I did work with a guy who was a clone of Vance McNally ... Pine Cove-EMT and blunt, stupid asshole. I was glad that I wasn't cursed with him for that trip ... he was gifted with saying the wrong thing. I don't really remember the patient's name, or even the daughter's name (I may not even have learned her name ... despite wanting to at the time), I sort of remember the part of town, and that is was fall, it was dark early, and cool, but not cold enough for us to wear a coat or even a light jacket. But I remember my angst over whether I put the husband at the pointy end of my questions, or almost shun him for the daughter.

I don't know, maybe there are times when being a dolt makes it easier.

Post Thu Dec 02, 2004 12:31 pm   

The Hospital Setting ... good and bad  Reply with quote  

At the Hospital ... being a healthcare professional ... with the family around.

There are two extremes in this situation, I saw the perfect example and the worst example over my time there. The worst first ...

I almost remember the woman's name (I wouldn't list it even if I did), she whined about everything, a window would rattle, she'd whine, you barely touch the bed she'd whine. You walk by the door she'd want something adjusted. I, one way or another dealt with her as a patient several times, one of the last stays we picked her up at the house and brought her in by ambulance.

I joked on the way out about how I was going to drive through every pothole on the way back ... how I was so relieved to be driving that day. I DID NOT go out of the way to hit any potholes (as tempting as it was) ... but that "crate" was basically an ambulance-shell put on the back of a truck, so it rode like a truck. It could give a rough ride while sitting still, okay? And as my buddy riding shot-gun (shot-gun on the way out, in the back with the patient on the way back) ... she whined at every little jiggle of the ambulance. And when I say whine, there wasn't a question involve, maybe there was discomfort, real or perceived, perhaps "whimper" would almost be a better word, she would just make noise.

Eventually your sympathy is drowned out in your annoyance. At most there's only about five patients that really got under my skin, only two I ever want to open the back doors of the ambulance, unhook the stretcher, and let it roll out the back, and into traffic. One was a smug prisoner from Attica Prison, if I had rode in the back rather than driving, I am convinced she would have been number three, on a list of about 2200 calls.

Caught on the way by her room ... most of the time she had Oxygen, by cannula ... the long continuous tube with the two prongs that go in your nose, and the loop hooks over the ears, and a built in bolo-tie-like slide to adjust the fit (it just screams "TEXAS FORMAL-WEAR" ... she is the only patient who had flow of just one-liter per minute ... it almost didn't register. Each time, that I got caught walking by, she'd ask for it to be a little stronger (because she couldn't feel it) ... but then it was a too strong so by the time you left the room, it was at the EXACT same flow rate as when you walked in. One time, I just cranked up to a much higher rate, 3 or 4 L/min (not really that high), then when that was too much, I turned it to "off," then put it back at one-liter/minute. Not my finest moment, but it was faster than the typical dance that ended with the same result.
Technically, now that I think of it, as an EMT in the field (at that time), Oxygen was the only medication I could adminster, that same courtesy did not extend in the hospital except as so ordered and as as advised, but I also know the nursing staff had done the same dance hundreds of times.

Now enter the two sons ... I think you could call them Darth Maul and Darth Vader and it would be an optimistic appraisal of the two. The mother has already made herself into a patient you could almost feel little, even no sympathy for. She inspired a professional distance, is the best way I can put it. Over the course of her first few stays, I never ... and I mean, NEVER, saw her sons. Later when it seemed more "severe" they were camping out at the hospital ... one in particular, I don't think ever left ... all he lacked was a tent and a campfire, all the other smells, and so on, were present.
EVERYONE knew when he was there ... all the staff, the doctors, all the families, all the other patients, even on floors other than the one his mother was on. They were loud, they were obnoxious, they were pushy, and they were DEMANDING (even more than their mother, as hard as that is to imagine). When one of the phone operaters asks (there were all but hidden from view from the out-side world), you know that they are annoying everyone! But one asked why ... my answer was "guilt." My secong choice, looking back, was also trying to maintain a level of "appearance," but when you consider that, "everyone" ... staff, doctors, patients, and "family" (family, friends, coworkers, etc) for all shifts and so on, which was probably over 1000 people and over 900 knew that they are there ... They were being too disruptive.
It was the emptiest I had seen that waiting room. Except for the two idiot sons, few will willing to grieve her passing when it did come ... and probably more than a few were relieved.

I understand some degree of mourning ... some outbursts, frustration, apparent futility, and all the other expect things that might cause the occasional disruption. A loved one suffering IS cause for concern ... BUT I heard of a couple incidents where they had to be restraint from attempting to harm others ... I don't think many cared if it had been each other, but the threats and intimidation was NOT limited to being just between the two brothers.

And at the other end of the spectrum ...

This started as a transfer from Roswell in Buffalo, back to Batavia ... it marked the first time that I had tranferred a patient with an IV that a nurse wasn't also sent, to "watch" the IV. Later after inservices, and IV training, we didn't need to send the extra staff, unless we needed extra hands.

As mentioned in a previous post, "Roswell" in Buffalo, is alien-free, but is assocaited with cancer treatment and research. The kindly older woman is on a morphine drip. And while it may help the patient rest easier, when it's for pain-control, it doesn't mean that the patient isn't aware. Of course this was a drip, not the new push-button on demand (where patients actually require and use less meds) ... but hey at some point, pain-relieve becomes one of the few medical demands of the patient that can be met, but there's still the caring.

With the patient, on the transfer from Buffalo, her daughter rode with us, well with me, the other guy is driving. She's fortyish, caring, accepting, charming, cute for someone who might already have kids of her own approaching my age. It seems like she doesn't have a hair out of place, but even if she did it's not going to be bothersome, and she won't take it out of your hide.

The transfer was so that she could be closer to her family, to make it easier for everyone since the result was inevitable at that point. While I can't say for certain that someone was there every night, but I would suspect at least one person was, but except for the patient's room you would really know that they were there ... during the day, especially on the weekend, there were at least 30, maybe as many as 40 family members at the hospital. All of them were great. Except for, perhaps, a shyness among the kids (to help explain why at least some were quiet), but really, you would never know that they were there.
We were often called to help put her in a chair so she could eat, and visit ... and the same daughter who rode back with me ... she seemed a little fatigue, than when she rode with me, and may not have recognize me as having rode with her (or she with me actually), she gave this apology for her family being there and being in the way, and I remember saying close to "that they were all so helpful and understanding that we didn't really notice you as being in the way" ... and we didn't. Now maybe the floor staff might have had a different opinion; but really, except for being there for their mother/grandmother/great-grandmother, and for each other, you did not really notice that they were there. This was the ideal caring family ... there for one another, courteous even helpful to the staff. There were no outburst, no demands, no intrusion into the routine, or on the staff, or to the care that the other patients received. No one had to go out of their way to avoid them.

And when the patient died, you could even see it in the face of the staff on the floor a little ... because they got caught up in the magic of this family, too. And you had to grieve with them just a little, too.

Granted that hospice has taken a lot of this out of the hospital setting ....

Post Thu Dec 02, 2004 4:30 pm   
  Display posts from previous:      
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics. This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.

Jump to:  

Last Thread | Next Thread  >

Forum Rules:
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum

Templates created by Vereor and Ken