Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Bringing Back The Dead

Once upon a time when I was very young I worked in a Convalescent hospital, or old folks home, as it is more often called. 

It was the best one in town, but it was a small town and that was before a lot of laws were passed about care standards, so that was not saying much. 

It was not required to have any training to work in such a place. The main requirement to work there was apparently being erect and breathing. Some of my coworkers seemed to have benefited from having those requirements waived.

I was the only worker in the place who had a CNA (Certified Nurse's Aide) certificate. I had applied for  acceptance into nursing school at the local college as well, so I was snookered into training my coworkers two weeks after I began working there. I was only 20 years old and I was training people who were all older than I was. They put up with me pretty well most of the time even though I was very earnest.

The nurse who trained me for my certificate warned us all not to get too emotionally attached to patients. Naturally I did anyway.

One of my favorites was an elderly man who was completely bonkers. I will call him Mr. Goldy. He spent much of his time sitting in a geriatrics chair shouting for someone to, "Take me to Hanford!" I think it was the booming, resonant voice emanating from that scrawny little body that did it for me.

He also displayed a sense of humor and quoted poetry at unexpected moments. How could I resist all that? 

I had discovered that if I spoke to my patients who were mentally gone, that they would have lucid moments or longer, if I could talk about something familiar to them.

I determined to try this with Mr. Goldy. There were rumors that he had been a financial whiz and generally good in business matters. I decided that business was the familiar thing to try with him. 

On my next break I sat down next to Mr. Goldy in his geriatrics chair and opened negotiations for his geriatrics chair. We haggled for a while until he lit on a price and said he wanted that and not a penny less. I pointed out a few dings and dents in the chair and said I wanted compensatory reduction in price for them. 

Mr. Goldy let out a booming laugh and said I was a very charming young lady. I thanked him and looked in his eyes. There was someone home for the first time. He knew what was going on. 

He asked me where he was. I told him that it was a convalescent hospital and described its function. He interrupted me to ask if I meant, "An old folks home?" I said, "Yes." He was silent for a minute. He asked if he could leave. I said I didn't know, but I doubted that he could take care of himself alone.

We talked for a little while before I had to go clock in from my break. I asked him if he would stay there until I got back. He looked sad and said he would try, but it was very hard. I asked him how it was hard. Was it because it hurt physically or it felt bad emotionally? He said it was the latter.

I hurried back, but he was already gone. I never saw him in there behind his eyes again. I wondered if I hurt him a lot by waking him up, but I was glad I got to meet him.

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