Tuesday, May 8, 2012


This post has needed some time to percolate psychologically. We are all humans, requiring dignity and care. No matter what.

I was recently in Sunnybrook as in-patient to receive various diagnostics to narrow down some issues, deal with pain. The X ray, CT can, MRI - all re-dos of tests I have had in the last 6 months- it all happens mercifully quickly when you are in the system, ie in a bed in a Cancer Ward.

I was in the right place, with the right doctors - more or less - with access to the right "kind" of care. 5 days, yes, several glitches, if we're looking at it service wise [but we're not going to, right now, since it's a hospital not a donut factory] - whose drugs to take, whose pump to use, which doctor comes next....etc.

But there is no question, it was the right thing to do. For me. It was also the right thing for P, the lovely woman whom I shared a ward room with - for her 24 / 7 Chemo infusion. She needed 24 / 7 as her chemo, a series of large bags, about 4 different kids - needed changing every few hours. She needed to be on a cancer ward - its way too complicated to do it at home. I have never had to endure thus torture - 24 hours, in bed, taking chemo. It was hard knowing this is the place to be- thinking of other things and trying not to get sucked into the paucity of human dignity around us that is a cancer ward. My God.  Talk about depressing.

And into this sad woeful world add wee  Nora, Mrs. B. The cranky little bird in the bed in between P and myself, well, she  was not in the right spot. And proceeded to make life trouble for us all.

I say that in the impatient way one does when someone else's misery gets in your way. You know, someone has a life-threatening car accident, which makes YOU late; the subway jams, again but YOU will be late for work.

Mrs. B not getting the all encompassing attention of the nurses, or her husband, all the time. For a drink, to pull herself up in bed, to have her legs covered, to have a sponge bath - Mrs B: "SHOWER TODAY" - no manners, language barrier, etc.  Nurse: "No, sponge bath Mrs B. We're too busy to wash you in the shower."

Mrs. B. using her wedding band to bang the bed rail persistently, when they respond a lot less quickly to the call button as the night goes on- the tone of voice, "What now, Mrs B?" Even when the nurse is there, the husband is there, [obsequious, not really knowing the answers to the doctor's questions....but not wanting to ruffle any feathers, the doctors know best], she is still pushing the call button. This is because she also has dementia, in moderate form. She cannot think clearly. She just wants to sit up in bed, drink water, have some dignity. She wants to sit in a wheelchair to eat - sometimes allowed. She wants to sit up so she can see something other than the ceiling- sometimes allowed. All requiring more than one person to move her in any way. Bottom line - she needs long term more advanced care, which she will wait a long time for and not in a culturally appropriate way - although she did get way better food than me or P ;-): dhal, rice, spicy potatoes... 6 weeks to 6 months was her wait window for a "Jewish" facility - the best fit they (social services) could fnd.

Mrs. B was left the other night for a whole hour, no blanket, no gown, just lying in her bed, naked. 2 am. Assistant changing sheets. Does one bed in two parts....apparently, needing an hour in between. Some kind of torture for Mrs B who can't move by herself. I tear a strip off this young man in the nicest possible way, who has the sensitivity of a gnat. Why do this job, if you hate it so much? She says," You can see my ass." Well, that is easy to fix -cover little wee bird's ass. Done. "Not anymore, Mrs. B."

Finally, she realizes the nurse is not coming. it's 3 am or something like that -we don't know since there is no clock in this timeless place, this void. But then  I hear the croak - Person. Person! She is talking to me, she does not know my name, but she can call me - Person.

I thought it a telling and dignified way to call someone. You're a person  - now can I get someone who will provide that dignity for me too? Providing dignity in care can be done so easily, and should be,  So how come we don't? We even need to feed the angry little birds.


Tiina said...

Wow Kate, you are sooooo patient. And kind. Many people would not, could not have the reserve to be so patient and kind in such confined, imposing, difficult circumstance. That could not have been an easy roomate situation. Yet you manage to find the beauty in her, this "little bird" lady, you forgive her tresspasses, and hear the call for "Person!" in a Horton Hears a Who kind of way, and that is really some higher kind of being.

Auntie Cake's Shop said...

Hi Tina, lofty attributes you assign me! Thanks though - blushing from ear to ear. I think of myself sometimes as the turtle on the bottom of the pack -Yertle the Turtle.Squished but trying.