Wednesday, 15 October 2008
by mr maple
I had a patient who is this little old lady with emphysema and variable dementia. She huffs and puffs with every breath but when I wake her up in the early morning to make sure she's doing okay, she usually puts up a good fight and bats me away with her frail arms. She has this tendency to latch on to certain things and keep repeating them until she gets what she wants. For example, she likes sweet foods and so kept on repeating, "Gimme a brownie! Gimme a brownie! Gimme a brownie!" for about an hour in the emergency room. She also likes to smoke (which is how she got the emphysema in the first place) and will often lie in bed moaning, "I wanna cigarette." She even fell out of bed and almost hurt herself badly trying to escape to find a cigarette... though I'm fairly certain our hospital doesn't sell them. One morning she pointed to me and said, "I know who you are! You're Doctor Ching Chong Chang from the shirt factory!"
Though she drives the nurses crazy (and me too sometimes), she grew on me over the few days I took care of her. One time I gave her some soda and she trembled as she drank. I asked her why she was shaking and she said, "Because I'm scared... I'm scared I can't breathe." It briefly brought back memories of a lung problem I had once where I was gasping for air, and I couldn't help but feel paralyzed by her pain. This cranky, pale, feisty and demented old woman was rapidly approaching the end of her life and there was little that we or anyone else could do to stop it. I remember the first time I met her in the emergency room. She pulled me over and, through puffing and cracked lips, said, "Why does all this have to happen to me? Oh God, why? You don't understand, I don't have anything left..."
In another part of the hospital, a few of the nurses were talking and joking about a patient they once had in the endoscopy lab. They said, "This woman was coming out of anesthesia and all she could say for the next hour was, 'Thank you Jesus, oh thank you Lord. Thank you Jesus, oh thank you Lord.' They kept on repeating it over and over again, like she had, and had a rip-roaring time laughing. I laughed too, but all I could think about was my puffing patient.
At the memorial service for a friend of mine who passed away after a drawn out battle with leukemia, the reverend said to us, "When you squeeze apples, you get apple juice. When you squeeze oranges, you get orange juice. When you squeeze a Christian, you get love. And that's what happened when you squeezed her: you got love."
Every day I get squeezed and I'm ashamed to say that, usually, a lot of crap comes out. I curse, I get angry, I get sad, I get emotionally distraught. I get jealous, I get spiteful, I blame people and God and things. But sometimes, and hopefully in the times it really counts, there's a drop of love.
What happens when you get squeezed?