Do you even find that some patients stick out in your memory more than others? I do.
I was reading the local paper today when I saw a name I recognized. He was a man I'd cared for when I worked at a local nursing home. He died last week....he was only 50.
He'd had a stroke in his early 40's. Because he was so young, he didn't even consider the possibility of a cerebro-vascular accident as being the cause for his symptoms, so he ignored them.
He ended up incontinent, unable to walk or speak or communicate in any way...unable to feed himself, wash himself. Unable to do pretty much everything we able-bodied people take for granted. When I was assigned to him he was on a liquefied diet and those of us caring for him had to be careful about how we fed him because he had a history of aspirating his food and getting pneumonia. He was incredibly, painfully thin. I used to joke with him when I was cleaning him up and changing his underwear about how I had to be careful not to cut myself on his ileac crest. He couldn't ever answer me, of course. All he could do was stare at me with his blue eyes.
That's what I remember most about him - his eyes. He was the patient who taught me that a persons eyes really are windows - not necessarily to their soul, but to themselves. I could tell by looking into his eyes what kind of a day he was having and what kind of a mood he was in. He may not have been able to grimace or smile or verbalize his emotions, but one look into his eyes and I knew instinctively what he needed...and did my best to provide it for him. I used to take him outside to sit in the sunshine when the weather was nice, and when it wasn't so nice I'd spend my breaks sitting next to his window with him, talking about what was going on in the world. Some of the other nurses and CNA's used to make fun of me for talking to him all the time, asking me whether he'd answered me yet. I never let them know it, but their attitudes hurt me - I felt like they were making fun of me, and sometimes they were. I didn't let it stop me, though. He and I kept right on communicating.
He died last week. I'm not a christian and I don't believe in an afterlife, so I can't say that he's free now, free of a body that had confined him for years. I CAN say that there has been a cessation of suffering and pain for him, and I'm happy about that. I'm also sad that he's gone and that I won't ever be able to look into those blue eyes again and talk about how the first snowfall of the year caught everyone off guard or watch squirrels stash acorns ready for the winter. My sadness is a selfish emotion, and I know it....so instead of mourning him, I'll celebrate his life and be happy his pain has ended.
I will miss you, Quackers. Thank you for teaching me that words are sometimes optional.