Sunday, March 27, 2005

Day of Bunnies

There was a period in my life, (there have actually been several,) when I was full of sloth and I would do such things as watch the television game show Wheel of Fortune. This was many years, even decades ago, by now.

As I recall (and after witnessing such, who could ever forget it?) a particular episode of the show featured as one of its contestants a clergyman of some sort. He wore a clerical collar. Several clue letters had already been turned by Vanna White, grand diva of wonderbread female gameshow assistants.

The board was showing this: TH_ ___ T_STAM__T.

It was the clergyman's turn. The wheel was lucky for him and he had a good sum to win. I suspected he would take the easy way and perhaps "buy an E" which would subtract $200 from his pot, but supply a determining clue.

He chose instead to solve the puzzle immediately, saying it's "The New Testament."

Someone else might have chosen "Old." And that would have lost.

A shrimplate moment.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How French is That?

There was a man outside the hospice where Terri Schiavo lay in her final repose (again) and he carried a sign reading "Honor Her Wishes." His name was given as Richard Avant, in the account I read online from Long Island Newsday (morning, 3/23/05.) A progressive fish in a pond of conservatives.

A shrimplate moment.

"Culturally or stylistically advanced" is what Merriam-Webster gives in definition of the word "avant," from the French. Ain't that a kicker, considering the abuse our conservative fellow Americans heaped upon all things Gallic not so long ago.

It is not conservative to honor the wishes of those who lay dying.

It is not conservative to be culturally or stylistically advanced.

It is not conservative to hold the French in honor, even though the freedoms unleashed in their Revolution reverberate, with our own, through history, to this day yet.

It is not conservative to prevent government from meddling in the most private and sacred of marital affairs.

Rather, it is progressive; it is "avant."

Monday, March 21, 2005

Genuine Appreciation

This was years ago: nurse G. quietly asked me to come help him and nurse K. with a patient.

We walked down the hall to the room to find the patient on the floor next to her specialty bed. That particular kind of bed had pretty low siderails, and when little nurse K. had rolled the patient over to clean up a mess of incontinent stool, the patient just kept rolling. Her own body weight (she was quite obese,) gave her the momentum to just go over the rails and K. couldn't stop her.

It took about five of us to get her flaccid and heavy (near 300 lbs.) body onto a rigid backboard to lift her back into bed.

Her urinary catheter got pulled out, and while K. reinserted it, G. and I each had to hold up a fat leg out of the way so K. could see where to insert the new one. How come they never show things like that on TV medical shows?

That particular patient was a controversial one. She was irreversibly vegetative. After suffering a heart attack, she stopped breathing long enough to have suffered immense brain damage. But the family members remained completely in denial about her condition, despite repeated demonstrations from the doctors that she was vegetative.

She stayed at that hospital for the better part of a year. Though there were times when she was able to maintain breathing on her own (such as when she fell out of that bed,) there were also weeks when she had to be put on a ventilator. The medical staff wanted to pull the plug, as did administrative staff. Family refused.

Family also refused to have her moved to a facility that cared for long-term ventilator-dependent patients, because that would be "too far away."

The patient was uninsured.

Anyways, we didn't want the whole place to know that the patient fell on the floor. Of course the proper incident form and doctor notifications were done, but we didn't shout it to the world. It seems safe to discuss it now, under anonymity. And the accident luckily caused no injury, not even a bruise.

There were weeks when I myself was assigned this woman. I never, ever saw a voluntary movement nor any indication at all that she was in the least aware of anything. Doll's eyes.

What blew my mind the most about the family would be when they trotted in the children to "talk to grandmaw." The adults would go on talking to one another about "how good she looks" doting on every flicker as a response to their chatter, while the kids looked at each other, and at me, like their parents were nuts.

The poor children were quite obviously totally creeped out, but the adults were in denial about that too, commenting on "how much the grandchildren like seeing their grandmaw at the hospital."

Yes, they did pronounce it "maw," to my ears.

Though she was brain dead, her bowels worked just fine, and tube-feedings can encourage rather loose movements. The adults saw this as an angelic sign of "life" and they would chuckle and congratulate her on "making a good one" as they hopped out of the room, leaving nursing staff to deal with the clean-up.

It was as if, without irony, they thought she crapped all over herself just to show them how much she genuinely appreciated them being there.

The kids looked particularly freaked about that. Scared and disgusted, but glad to be leaving the room.

Bedbaths would take several people, because nobody on nursing staff wanted to have to pick her up off the floor again, should she have rolled out of bed. And it was easier to clean her if somebody else was holding a heavy buttcheek up out of the way.

Eventually the woman was transferred, against family wishes, to a long-term-ventilator facility hours away in a different state; a state in which the facility could get reimbursement for her care.

The hospital itself went financially back into the black the following year.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

When You Pull the Tube

Nothing much happens at first.

Situations I have seen usually involve provision of comfort measures, like a continuous intravenous morphine infusion, for the dying patient. I have not read anywhere that Terry has such a morphine drip going, but since these are common in Hospice situations, I might guess that the husband would have this made available to her if it appears she's in any pain.

Immediate-release oral morphine could also probably be administered to a patient such as her, avoiding the difficulties of maintaining intravenous access.

A morphine drip also can sometimes seem to speed up the dying process a little. I may be misinformed, but I do not believe that the parents have requested morphine, probably out of fear it will hasten her inevitable demise. I have heard families express that concern in similar situations.

Frist and the other Republican hammersacks that want to interfere with this have so far, to my knowledge, not come out in favor of thusly medicating this poor woman. And indeed, why would they? It's not like they really care about her.

Ironically their concern for her serves only to make an object out of her, for their own political gain. Real nice, that. And real stupid, too.

There's already enough suffering in the world, don't you think? Why make more?

Hopefully it will all be done and forgotten by the time anyone sees this, my first post.

3/19/05 dona eis requiem