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March 25, 2016: While She Sleeps

Time has become a differing entity. Being on hospital time is a lot like being on airport time in that there is an element of hurry up and wait. At the same time, the usual time related contexts of familiar space and place are again non-existent.

The medical people made their rounds – the respiratory therapists work on a rotating basis. They have more time to talk than the other health care providers because their main job is to affix a nebulizer to mother’s face, and then wait for the gas to enter mother’s respiratory system. Being tired, name recognition is going out the window. However, they are a diverse lot. One, an older, balding fellow wore a white lab coat, and talked about his upcoming vacation. And another, a younger woman with a blue tee-shirt with white lungs on the back (when asked) told me all about her schooling. She went to a two-year college and actually majored in respiratory therapy.

Karen, the speech therapist also graced us with an appearance. Tall, thin, hair pulled back, she was the essence of efficiency. She first checked out mother’s ability to breathe – she drew a drawing in my notebook, a side view of the upper respiratory/digestive tract. What I wanted to say, but did not, was that I recently learned all about both in taking anatomy and physiology. Instead, I remained quiet and let her talk. This was in part because I was grateful for the company.

She explained to me that the oxygen that mother’s getting has compromised her ability to breath – and as had previously been explained to us by Dr. Annihilator, she could choke if she aspirated food into her lungs. Before leaving, she wrote on the bulletin board next to mother’s bed “nothing by mouth/suction as needed.” Hence, no food.

El arrived mid-morning, was here for the day’s visits. She took me back to her place at noon and I went right to bed. I woke up a few hours later, ate a bean burrito, and then came back here. El had been giving mother apple sauce, apple juice, and ice chips. The palliative care people have come up with a term that I’m now hearing tossed around some – this is recreational eating. It’s sort of a no-hold barred term – apparently those who (presumably) are going to live must have their diets monitored. But those who are going to die can eat anything they want. My question is – who gets to make this eating related decision? I just don’t think we are ready for the recreational eating phase of health care. But at least mother is getting some form of nourishment.

A family friend, Bob Brownbridge, came and visited late this afternoon. He and El and Mom became good friends many years ago – he was mother’s upstairs neighbor, and often helped mother with her computer problems. Mother greeted him with open arms, as she does everyone. Then she repeatedly asked him how his horses were doing. I suspected that she thought he was Pete.

Bob took off at 5 p.m. and El left an hour later. Mother has been sleeping soundly ever since. This is a good thing – when people leave she rests more. It’s also good for me – I’m not as good a care-taker as Eleanor is – I’ll do the things that need doing, the suctioning, the feeding, the ice-chip dispensing, the diaper check, etc., but I don’t have the drive and commitment that El does.

El is going to do the night shift which will be good because I need a break. Mother is looking around – I will hold her hand for a bit and every so often ask her to squeeze mine. Strong like bull, indeed.

Next: 83. 3/26/16: On My Watch

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