No sooner had I moved to my new room than my attending doctor, who had been disturbed by the fact that my leg pain persisted, sent me to the hospital for an MRI of my hip. It was there that it was discovered that I had an internal fracture in the neck of the femur. I was operated on the following morning, at which time the surgeon inserted 3 very long screws into the femur. (I saw the x-ray yesterday. Ouch!) I stayed in the hospital for four days and was then sent to another convalescent home, where the care and personal attention of the staff were far superior to my previous experience.
Above all, I treasure my relationship with my roommate’s husband, and through, him, with her. She was a very lovely-looking woman who, I gathered, had had a stroke some six years before and suffered from aphasia, the inability to speak words, although her husband told me that she was mentally alert. He spent most of his time with his wife, either in our room or taking her down the hall for the entertainment provided for patients. He told me that he was 91. What a long, sad end to two vibrant lives!
I watched C-Span most of every day on the TV in our room, and found that he was watching it also. We gradually learned that we had a great deal in common. Our conversation, as with so many people these days centered mainly around the war, the Bush administration, and immigration. I told him that I had my own views about immigration, which do not coincide exactly with either those firmly against, or those firmly in favor. As those of you who read my posts on the subject will realize, I blame most of the problem on this country and on those of us (and there are many) who are glad to take advantage of the situation for our own benefit.
This, of course, turned to talk of prejudice, and my friend told me that he and his wife knew a great deal about prejudice, as they are both Jewish and atheists. And the latter in turn brought a whole change in my way of thinking. I have always referred to myself as an agnostic, not knowing about how we got here, and not feeling it is knowable. But, as best I can explain their belief, they do not think there is any great, thinking force up there somewhere which is planning and creating the universe. This comes much closer to what I really feel, so henceforth I shall refer to myself as an atheist.
This experience and association is one which I would not have missed, and it will remain in my memory.
End of Chapter 5, and the end of my story.
One day I came back from my physical therapy session to find a joyous party going on in our room. There were five or six support staff members enjoying the usual leftovers from patients’ trays, and the Reader was the delirious hostess. “We found it,” she told me. “It was in your drawer.” And behind her I saw the blue blanket, ostentatiously arranged at the foot of her bed.
That means, of course, that someone had gone through my drawer and found it buried beneath the white towel and whatever else there may have been there. This was done when I was out of the room and without my permission. Between this incident and the previous encounter with the staff members examining my adding machine with the thought that I might have stolen it also, I had had enough.
So I wheeled myself down to the nurses’ desk, but no one was there, so I waited, with the wheels of my chair pointing obliquely toward the desk.
All of a sudden my wheelchair was hit so hard at the side that it nearly fell over! I couldn’t imagine what had done it, and I hadn’t heard anyone coming. When I turned around, I saw a woman I had never seen before. She remained where she was in her wheelchair, and looked at me with hatred on her face. Not only that – when I looked beyond her, there stood Smiley in the hall, watching us, and grinning the biggest grin I had ever seen.
Across the lobby from the nurses’ desk was a large alcove about 10 feet wide and 5 feet deep. Half of the alcove was taken up by a very large plant in a very large bowl. This strange woman had not moved, so I quickly wheeled my wheelchair over and backed into the other half of the alcove and closed my eyes in relief. But she hadn’t finished; I felt something bump my toes, and there she was again, toe to toe with me, looking even more malevolent than she had before. And through all of this, not a word passed between us.
Just then, a nurse came back to the station, and I demanded that I be moved to another room immediately. I did not even stay to collect my clothes and possessions, leaving it to an assistant to bring to me. (Incidentally, one of my nightgowns was lost in the process.)
And as I left the room for the last time, the very religious Reader who had learned love from Christ waved her arms from side to side above her head and exclaimed, “God loves me! Thank you Jesus, thank you!”
End of Chapter 4
I’ll digress a bit to give you a flavor of living in such a care home. All such facilities seem to have a hard time being adequately staffed, but this somehow seemed to be worse.
The more menial the work, the less training they seem to receive.
For example, after one young man gave me a hair-raising ride down the hall in my wheelchair at top speed, dodging oncoming old people walking toward us within inches of hitting them head-on, I asked if he had had any training about that. He said that, no, he hadn’t had any training about that or anything else. It scared me to death, so you can imagine the reaction of people who are barely ambulatory. It was also common for staff members to open doors with the toes on your foot when navigating in close places and not to notify the passenger in advance about when they were going to turn, so that they could adjust their bodies accordingly.
There was one old man who wandered the halls saying that he had never received his breakfast. I was told by a staff member that he had had his breakfast already and that he had done that for years, so they just ignored him. I realize that they are overworked, but it is terribly sad to me that they couldn’t just have given him something to chew on or at least a kind word so that he knew someone cared for him.
The cords to our reading lamps and our red light calling for assistance were often left hanging at the wall, so that you couldn’t reach them if you were unable to get up, and the red lights often stayed on for some time before they were answered. There was also a woman down the hall who called for help almost ceaselessly. She may have had mental problems, but her plight was pathetic in any case.
Caring for the old and infirm is tough work, no doubt about it, but no tougher than being the old one being cared for.
End of Chapter 3. (Two more to come.)
The three of us in my room shared a bathroom with one toilet with three women on the other side. One of them was very ill and required a lot of time there, often. The polite custom was to wait at the door until you heard the opposite door close, and then go in.
On this particular occasion, I had been waiting at the door in my wheelchair for about an hour. Just as I was about to go in, Smiley leaped from her bed, saying that she was faster than I was, and pushed ahead of me. I was furious, but didn’t say anything.
But the next night, she did the very same thing. So I asked her if she went to church. As I suspected, she said she did, so I said, “I could tell,” thinking of the many people who are loyal worshippers, but lose their values upon exiting the church door.
At this point, the Reader, who was not involved in this, and to whom I had never talked about religion, shouted, “Do you go to church?” and when I said no, she shouted back, “We could tell.” I did not really expect Smiley to understand what I was trying to tell her, but my slur against the Church was more important to the Reader than the lesson I was trying to convey to Smiley.
That was the real beginning of the descent.
A number of the service personnel were in the habit of coming to the Reader’s bed to enjoy breaks, during which they imbibed leftover food and drink from patients’ trays. The Reader spoke more often of the blue blanket which had been a gift to her and which she could not find. On just such an accasion, I woke from a catnap to find a man and a woman standing over my table. My daughter had brought me a plastic drawer with get well cards, bills, my checkbook and my adding machine. Before they became aware that I was awake, I heard the woman ask the man, as she pointed at my adding machine, what it was. When she saw my eyes open, she apologized and said it looked something like a tool which some of the staff used.
End of Chapter Two
Faith Without Values – Horror at the Convalescent Facility
When I fell in the gutter on June 27th (this is the second time I have chosen a gutter, if that tells you anything) while walking my dog and talking to a friend with his dog, I thought at first that it was just a bad bruise, but decided to go to emergency to be sure. The x-rays did not show a break, so I was sent to a convalescent facility to recuperate.
The building was a large, sprawling one-story facility, with some really beautiful furniture, and I was told it was at one time a motel for the very rich. I can believe it. The grounds were lovely, with stately oaks offering welcome shade to the occupants, and there was an elaborate inner court with lovely gardens and koi ponds.
The rooms also were lovely, despite hopital beds and tables and wheelchairs. Rooms which had only two beds were still spacious, though I was in a room with three beds, so we felt a little cramped. I was in the middel bed.
My roommates had obviously been together long enough to become friends, and they talked a great deal to each other, while I got some reading done. The woman by the window, it soon became obvious, had a very low IQ, compensated for by an enormous mouth that smiled – no, grinned – constantly. I’ll call her Smiley.
On the other side was a woman who kept a huge paperback Bible on her table, as well as another religious tome of equal size. In quiet moments, she recited verses quietly to herself. I’ll call her the Reader.
Though we had little in common, we occasionally asked after each other’s health and exchanged other pleasantries.
Each of us had a closet of our own at the foot of our beds, with a drawer underneath. Shortly after I moved in, the Reader told me that someone had given her a blue blanket, but that she could not find it, and she asked if it might be in my drawer. I bent over in great pain to open the drawer, but could only see a large white towel, and nothing of mine was in there. I assumed that that was the end of that.
End of Chapter One
Chapter I: Romney Family Vacation
This shaggy dog story, courtesy the Boston Globe, begins with the beginning of annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario.
Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.
Then Romney put his boys on notice: He would be making predetermined stops for gas, and that was it. As the oldest son, Tagg Romney, recalls
Think about it. A 12-hour drive and the only time we stop is to get gas. When we stop, you can buy your food and go to the bathroom, but that's the only time we're stopping, so you'd better get it all done at once.The ride was largely what you'd expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the "white whale."
Tagg commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ''Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.
As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway.
It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free problem-solving & crisis-management.
Chapter II: The Explanation
After several days of intense pain relieved by Vicodin, I am doing much better today. Also, have had several changes of caregivers here at home, which has taken time from thinking about blogging and emailing.
I still have my scary experiences at one of the two convalescent care homes to which I was sent to write about. Which reminds me—when I retired as a librarian, I volunteered to deliver meals to shut-ins in Berkeley three times a week. Many lived in the poorest parts of town, and my dearest memories are of them. I got 4 of my dogs as a result of promising to take them when their owners either went into rest homes or died.
I went often to visit one dear little lady (whose chihuahua I adopted) who moved into a low level rest home, and I remember how much she looked forward to moving there, and how much she regretted it after she moved. I also remember the lost souls sitting in the halls in wheel chairs, who reached for my hand and begged me to get them out. (I have written before about the punishment of dragging on forever like that with no conrol over how and when one’s life should end.)
My story, on the other hand, is quite different. Hope to get to it tomorrow.
How much MORE of this can you take?????
Been thinking about our troops when they come home, if they come home. Let’s ruminate.
The Big Guys will be okay. They will still have the same jobs with high pay, but the little guys with little education and less hope who enlisted at least to earn some self-respect and possibly an education are the ones I am thinking about.
Many of our troops enlisted out of loyalty to those already serving, and that will be an inner badge of courage that can never be taken away. Those who enlisted out of patriotism to their country may find that to be a badge without meaning to them anymore.
Getting to the nittygritty, however, what are their prospects when they come home? Where will the new jobs be? Will they have to compete with the people holding the jobs they want or need, the ones who didn’t go to war with them, the ones who could have enlisted, but didn’t?
What about their qualifications? They have all seen HORROR close-up, and that will never leave them. It will be with them waking or sleeping. Those who have been in actual combat will have special skills, killing and cruelty, but they are not in much demand, and besides we have football players and other civilians here who will compete.
Many of our troops will bear the obvious badges of honor that we all can see, such as grievous head and facial wounds and missing or prosthetic limbs. Adjustment to civilian jobs may be difficult or impossible for them, and our present leaders apparently don’t have them on their front burners.
Welcome home, guys and gals!