Hump Day: Hospital staff care for patients in both senses of the word

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Two weeks ago today, my father suffered his second stroke since 2007. This meant a return to the same hospital ward on which he was patient during an extended stay between October and December of last year for other health issues.

When he arrived on the ward, he was greeted by several familiar and friendly faces. The staff remembered him from his stay last year. When I went to visit, we said our hellos like old friends.

When he was in the hospital for seven weeks last year, I certainly got to know the nurses, aides and other staff since I visited often.

What I found sad, though, was that there were a few patients on the ward who were still there from my father’s previous stay. They continue to wait for a bed in a nursing home. From what I could see, most of them required a high level of care. Perhaps their families wanted them in specific homes, I’m not sure. All I know is that they’re still there. My father, however, has since been released and his back in his seniors’ residence.

The hospital patients are treated well. The staff care for all of them – both in physical terms and, as I could certainly see, in emotional terms, too. You can’t give intimate care and comfort to someone for months on end without becoming emotionally attached – at least a little bit.

One lady – obviously deep into her own world of Alzheimer’s – was often chatty. She’d roll up her wheelchair to where I and other visitors would be talking to my father. She asked us if we were there for the CNR meeting. Apparently, there was a big crowd coming. We humoured her and told her, “Yes.” This seemed to please her.

Another day, I heard her crying in her room and talking to herself in quite a panicked manner. From what I could gather, she was reliving some sort of fire or other incident that caused her to want to flee from the scene along with “the children.”

She called out repeatedly for everyone to follow her. She left her room in a harried state and propelled herself as quickly as possible down the hospital corridor, all while looking back to make sure the people she was trying to rescue were behind her. “Come! Come!” she implored. “We have to get out!” She could go no further than the ward because a bracelet she wore sent a signal to lock the exit door when she was near it.

Knowing that she was safe inside the hospital and that whatever was going on in her mind was not actually happening, I didn’t concern myself too much with her personal safety. I knew nothing would happen, but one look into her panic-stricken eyes told you that all was not right in her imaginary world and that it was very real to her. Too real.

I don’t know this lady. She was in a pleasant mood most of the time and perfectly harmless. She was just lost . . . so unbelievably lost in her own dysfunctional mind that trying to carry on a normal conversation with her would prove virtually futile.

I wondered what kind of life she led when she was a younger woman. Did she have family? Did she, her husband or father work at the CNR? Is this why she kept asking us if we were there for a meeting? I wondered about her children . . . her husband . . . and what she was like before her mind divorced her. I would never know, but whenever I looked into her confused eyes, I couldn’t help but wonder.

And there she was, still waiting for a nursing home bed . . . for months on end.

Also on the ward was a developmentally challenged gentleman who roamed the corridors constantly. He seemed to be a very gentle soul.

He would grunt constantly as he made his way down the hallway in his wheelchair. Sometimes, he’d have his shirt pulled up over the bottom half of his face and grunt through the fabric. In a way, it was cute and it made me smile.

The staff clearly loved him and would pay a lot of attention to him. I told my father that he likely lived with his parents or other family members for many years until they either died or got too old to care for him. My father asked me whether or not I thought he knew where he was. I honestly didn’t know, but I said he likely didn’t.

I loved watching hospital staff interact with him. They would say his name and put their face next to his. One even gave him a friendly peck on the cheek and held his face close to hers. It was a very sweet moment. I hope a part of him knew he is well cared for and that his family knows that the paid professionals who care for his physical needs also genuinely care for him as a person, too. They treat him with great dignity.

Another lady would walk around the ward over and over on the same route. She was quite pretty and had some snazzy pink pyjamas. She walked slowly and deliberately around “the block” throughout the day and always held her hands in front of her in a demure fashion. I never saw her talk to anyone. She just walked . . . and walked . . . in silence. I often wondered why she was there.

Perhaps she was lost in her mind, too. I’m not sure. Despite her silence and calmness, she seemed to look scared and nervous. I worried about her when I saw her walk by. I wanted to tell her that everything would be OK.

Looking into the eyes of those dear souls, I could only be grateful for my health and think, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

2 Responses to Hump Day: Hospital staff care for patients in both senses of the word

  1. The staff at the Georges Dumont are very special. I have a lot of experience with them, most recently with my Mom spending a lot of time there.

    Thanks for your sweet story! Good to hear of an institution managing well enough so that the staff are inclined to be so kind.