LI. Backstage — Act II

February 4, 2012 — As you will recall, in our last episode, I was up on the catwalk, getting an overview of the action when the phantom of my blog came up behind me and nudged me over the edge. I grabbed hold of a rope in the fly system, my hands slipped down; at the end of my rope I let go, falling into the midst of a heap of backdrops, whereupon I became confused as to which scene I was in; and although I recited my lines thinking I was speaking English to an English-speaking audience, my audience did not comprehend. Following is my Act II synopsis:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 – I was up all last night with Emma, who was agitated. By midnight, after I had given her eight one-milligram doses, one every hour, of Haldol, I knew I would get no sleep because her condition was not improving, and she was uncomfortable. Therefore, I broke down and, even though I feared getting earless people, talkover and an argument, called Hospice. I explained over the phone to the on-call nurse that I had given Emma eight doses of Haldol every hour as prescribed, with little effect, and I needed some direction. The on-call nurse, a woman from the Islands, who apparently is on permanent vacation, this same woman who told me a few weeks ago by phone “She’s had a decline,” this time said – yes, you guessed it – “Give her another dose and wait a half hour. If it has no effect, call us.”

I asked her to repeat the incidents I has just detailed for her; she had no idea. I told her very politely that I was going to hang up and call back to speak with someone who would listen and had the knowledge to manage the situation. Finally I got the continuous care manager, who was on-call, who said she would send Nurse M, the wonderful night on-call nurse with 40 years experience, the one who last August so helpfully settled Emma into her hospital bed for the first time when she became too weak to climb the stairs. Nurse M phoned at 2:30 in the morning to say she had just “pronounced someone,” she was 45 miles north of us and she would be right down.

Until around 2:00 I had been alternately holding Emma’s hand and giving her the medicine, which she hated: “Don’t give me any more of that!” I found that when I sat beside her, it calmed her. When I left her side, she called, “Samantha, Samantha! Bob, Bob!” (my brother). Then, “Mother, Mother; where’s Mother?” Oh, dear, what does she need? She’s calling her mother. And then, from where she grew up, “Is anybody going to West Philadelphia?” and “Where are my dogs? Maybe she can sleep with me.” And finally, when she told me my hand was cold, “Do you want to get in with me?” That’s that generation. Much of what she said took me back. As a child, when I visited them, I always had to sleep with my snoring Nana or great Aunt Mary in a double bed next to a “Big Ben” wind-up clock with a loud ticking that sounded like my dog Kolia eating potato chips. Of that generation (my parents’) almost all are gone now. Sad; a great loss to us Americans and to the world: The We Generation, the ones, and their parents, who took in a widow or widower parent, aunt, uncle, a bachelor brother or spinster sister.

Anyway, stepping forward in time, thank goodness for my Kindle. I sat beside Emma, pulling up an opposing chair, placing a pillow on it, my feet on that, covering myself with my favorite throw, and reading with the page lit by my little flashlight on my apple green Kindle cover, so that I didn’t have to turn on a bedside lamp that would shine in Emma’s eyes. Speaking of sisters (my father’s and stepmom’s daughter), I read my sister, Kathleen Long’s novel, Chasing Rainbows, and since we have experienced many of the same situations and react to them the same way – in the novel she names the baby the protagonist lost, Emma – I felt like there were two of me – the one beside Mother and the one in the novel.

Kathy’s story is about a woman who upon suffering a series of losses seeks a way to survive. It is similar in tone to my journal here; it is very good and has been at the top of the Amazon and USA Today, among others’, bestseller lists.

Nurse M arrived at 3:30, so bubbly and helpful, eager to impart liters of knowledge, as before. “I buy Sippy Cups at the Dollar Store and keep them in my car,” she said. “I’ll go out and get one for you.” She brought in a little blue Sippy Cup that Emma figured out how to use and adapted to immediately. We poured in an inch of water at a time, making it easier to tilt the cup (or a glass of liquid). Nurse M said not to use straws, because people with dementia may forget how to use them, pull the liquid halfway up, let it go, and end up taking in a lot of air. She also suggested I give Emma something to do with her hands. Emma seemed to like holding the Sippy Cup. It turns out she was thirsty, very thirsty, and kept saying, “May I have more water, please.” She drank a whole cup. The Haldol gave her dry mouth. Yes, she was speaking full sentences and not mute or speaking in cryptograms. Nurse M left, saying to continue the doses as long as needed. Emma calmed after she drank the water and I had administered her 13th dose of Haldol at 5:00 in the morning.

I finally got to bed around 6:00. The on-call administrative supervisor, who had sent Nurse M, phoned at 9:30, saying she hoped she hadn’t awakened me but that it sounded as if she had, and asked how everything was going; she was very kind and thorough.

Midday, sitting at my computer, I find myself gazing unfocused and trancelike out my window at the bare dogwood and maples branches beyond. Our morning healthcare aide has been; Emma is calmer. I want to be productive, work on my writing – and I want to close my eyes and curl up and sleep. Not much chance to sleep: Tess is scheduled to come in the afternoon.

—Intermission …

—Samantha Mozart

 

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