5/19/2005

The Shit In The Way Of Real Life

There is so much shit in the way of real life.

I go to the nursing home today and while Elsie is better, I think Laura is dying.

She's 81 and while her body's abandoned her, she's as sharp as a tack, mentally. However, for some reason I don't yet understand, she's had herself declared incompetent. I've been working with her for over a year now, trying to get her out of her room and involved with the "activities" around the home...only the activities are a joke and she and I both know it.

Alice, the second floor nurse, has been on medical leave for almost 6 weeks and I'm about to decide that if she doesn't come back soon, real soon, people are actually going to die...Laura being one of them.

Laura never married. She grew up on a farm and as soon as she graduated high school, she set out to see the world. She worked as an accountant for a large company, loved travel, and never found true love with anyone. The closest she came was an affair with a married man. She moved back to North Carolina and spent most of her life working for a large insurance company and living alone in her home. The stroke took her retirement, her body, her house and her freedom. Now she's paralyzed without the use of her left hand or legs.

I have tried to get a good roommate for her, but they persist in filling the room with comatose or demented patients who die or get shipped off to other homes. Laura and I want a feisty roommate. She wants company, someone to talk to. Is that so much to ask?

Today I come in and find her hooked up to an IV. I ask what's wrong and she's unresponsive for so long I get scared.

Finally she says, "Honey, I don't know. My stomach hurts."

I kneel by the bed and take her hand. "Did the doctor tell you what's going on or why you're hooked up to an IV?"

She shakes her head. "No, but he pushed on my stomach real hard and it hurt."

"But he didn't say what was wrong or what he's going to do about it?"

Nope.

The doctor, according to nurse feedback, is an angry, tempermental asshole. I've never spoken to him, but today I decide to make an exception.

I walk down the hall, see him sitting at the nurses' station, and when he continues to ignore me, even though I am obviously standing by his side, I say "What's wrong with Laura?"

"Laura?" he says, looking blank.

I tell him her last name and he says, "Oh. I don't know. I'm sending her for a CT of her abdomen. Her gums are swollen and infected."

"So you think the infection could've entered her bloodstream?" I mean, you never know with these idiots, I'm not a doctor, but I'm not convinced he'd know either...so, I politely suggest.

"That's why I have her on antibiotics," the little smartass answers.

But apparently my suggestion makes him think I'm not stupid. We end up discussing a psychotic woman who thinks people are coming after her. It's an interesting case because it is so atypical and I've been saying something's medically wrong with her and today he finally saw that and has ordered a CT scan of her head. We talk and talk until he gets to the showing off part of the dog and pony show...

"I have connections at the mental health inpatient unit," he says. "I used to know the V.P of the unit. Refreshingly honest guy."

I smile. "Know him well, do you?" I say. Sometimes I can't help myself.

"Oh, yes. Great fellow!"

"I know him too," I purr. "I was married to him for 16 years."

His P.A chokes.

"Oh, ur, um...Sorry," he says.

"Oh, don't be. He's only my Ex. I'm fine with him."

"I've got an Ex," he offers. I'm thinking, I'll just bet you do!

We talk awhile longer and then I go back to Laura. I tell her what's going on and what's going to happen. I tell her the doctor will call her family, a sister-in-law, but that I will keep her informed and make sure that while they judge her to be incompetent, I know she's not.

"Thank you, honey," she says. "You have lovely eyes." (This from a woman who said at our first meeting, "I love your eyes, honey, but what the hell happened to your hair?"!)

Then I go down to the social work office. I tell the social worker I've finally braved the lion in his den and had a good professional conversation. I tell her about the Ex part, too. "Did he get your phone number?" she asks.

"No, you guys can reach me if Laura..."

"No, honey," she says, shaking her head slowly..."It won't be the same if we call you. That's what he does to all the pretty ones...He was hitting on you!"

I look at the other, newer, social worker and she nods in confirmation.

I'm there, worried about my patients and this joker's making time?!

Like a freaking fish needs a bicycle!

And I call myself a therapist?! Sheesh!

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