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March 26, 2016: On My Watch

On sailing ships they have watches – men (it’s always men) stay up all night, on the alert, ready to let the others know if trouble lies ahead.

It’s 2 p.m. I am now on watch, sitting in this grey and green quasi Lay Boy chair. My mother is on my left. Straight ahead, there is a small tray table with food items on it. All has been pureed, and none of it looks appetizing, this statement coming from an individual who for the past few days has been subsisting on hospital cafeteria food. It’s not bad, but it’s not good. It just is. I think that mother is now on the regular diet/recreational eating cusp. It could go either way, or so I am thinking.

El requested that the food to be fed to our mother be non-dairy. It is hard to say what the food items might be, and if they contain dairy. The potatoes – looks suspicious to me. And the gravy what gives? I will let El decide it it’s okay to feed this stuff.

I fed mother earlier – I was terrified because I was afraid that she might choke. This would be on my watch. I fed her tomato soup (could have milk in it) and apple sauce (most likely doesn’t have milk in it) and also some Jell-O-like stuff. High fructose corn syrup and sugar, here we come. What is it with hospitals? You’d think that eating well would be a priority. Why isn’t it? I don’t understand.
Mother can definitely swallow. And after swallowing, she tips her head forward so that the food goes down the right tube. These are very good signs. I am not giving up on her. She is not giving up on herself.

If mother died on my watch I would never, ever forgive myself. I’d live forever with the knowledge that this was due to my being negligent or absent minded.

Good news – the oxygen level has been turned down, a cause for celebration on the part of Eleanor and me. Perhaps, we are thinking, she might get moved back to the Pacifica Memory Center. There she will be on Elderplace care. This, as opposed to hospice care. No one has told me what the differences are. I think that perhaps Elderplace care is for those on Medicare, but I am not sure. I can’t seem to get straight answers out of people.

The patient in the adjacent room has a gaspy, gurgly, deep cough. Was most likely a smoker. Mother was a smoker, but at age 64 she quit. This is because Mrs. Rinotzowitz, a Romanian gypsy, told her that she was going to die at age 65. It could also have been because at night, her lungs were filling up with fluid.

That she was a smoker and she is on the upswing is incredible. Maybe the lungs have regenerative powers. Most recently, while in anatomy lab, we looked at a sheep’s lung – the poor sheep had been attached to a smoking machine. The lung was black and lumpy, this as opposed to the pink and soft lung. There was no talk about regeneration because the message was simply, smoking is bad for you. Perhaps people should be told that yes, it is possible to recoup from respiratory losses.

I remained on watch. I dozed – awoke when mother asked for ice. As I was feeding her, in walked a 40-ish blonde haired nurse named Susie and another nurse with no name tag. Susie was rather curt. Funny, how some nurses are personable and some are not. Maybe those who are curt see compassion as a weakness. Or, connection as a harbinger of personal loss. Hard to say.

The ever present oxygen machine sounds like a heavy mister, like those in the vegetable section of the grocery story. I was told that the oxygen is pumped into the room from another part of the building. The oxygen and where it comes from mystery is partially solved.

The sun has partially popped through the clouds. Someone just wheeled an empty hospital bed past the door. Did someone die? I have no idea. We are adrift here, on the good ship Sally.

On my watch, another visit from the palliative care nurse. She was less genuine this time – I think she has our number, and this number is that we are rallying for Sally. I played good cop, stood firmly on two feet as I talked with her – I said that we did not want to move mother until Monday. I added that hospice care would be okay but that we not ready to toss in the towel, not just yet. Palliative Nurse didn’t quite get it. She told me that staying put is out of the question because of the expense issue. I said that I understood, and tabled the matter. In my head I was thinking that it was good that El wasn’t here because she would have read this woman the riot act. Mother, as if reading my mind yelled out “I’m not going to die!” So there you go. As this was going on, Bernie Sanders appeared on the television screen. Good for Bernie, I thought. If only people would listen up.

On my watch, another visit from yet another speech therapist. She was in her 50s, and wearing a lab coat. She had shoulder length dyed brown hair. She told me that thickeners had been added to mother’s food, and this would reduce the likelihood of choking occurring. In listening to her, I got the sense that the medical staff has agreed that El and I are picking up the health care slack. Okay, I can deal, just so long as I know what the expectations are. If I had to, I could move heaven and earth. Me, I’m invincible. I’m the daughter of that woman who thus far has made her wishes be known.

I will remain here until El gets here. Then she will be on watch.

Next: 84. 3/27/16: Hospital Dispatch #6

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