Let's Get You into the Shower
He lies there, unable to move, a stroke has taken his independence.
‘Time for your wash,’ I tell him.
He smiles politely. After five weeks, he’s more than familiar with the damp-cloth bed washes he gets.
I pause a moment longer, considering him, then say to the other patient services assistant with me, ‘You know, with the hoist machine, we could move him.’
He watches with curious eyes and I ask him. ‘Let’s get you in the shower. What do you reckon?’ His face lights up and he struggles to form the words he wants. A few sounds edge out, but it’s those expressive eyes that speak to me. Really?! A real shower?? They seem to say.
I beam back, ‘Why not? It’s been awhile.’
The other assistant and I get the hole-filled nylon sling under his body and we hoist him. With him in the sling, we move to the shower. Gumboots on and we're ready. ‘Are you ready?’ I grin, and flick the water on. His mouth opens wide, he laughs joyously.
I shampoo his hair, then wash the suds off. He closes his eyes and tilts his head back, as if savouring the sensation of water drops on his skin. Pure bliss settles on his face, and his body relaxes.
It makes my day to see the happiness shining from him.
© Annabelle Khor
5th November 2017
These mini-stories share the lessons in compassion and humanity that we learn on our journey as care-givers. It is not taught in our studies and although we’d like to think it's something we are all born with, there is always so much more to learn from life.
So much is seen in a work environment where other people’s frailties and insecurities are placed in our hands. We witness the rawest of emotions and sometimes we, as humans, are stretched in our capacity to cope. Formalities, protocols, disassociation, and separation are some of the many ways we handle the situation to get the work done; we deal with reconnecting after. Sometimes, we manage better than others.
These stories share the experiences we face, the lessons we learn, the humanity in all. They are the little gems among our everyday experiences as the person across from the patients. These are the stories of the doctor, nurse, orderly, paramedic, carers, and many others who provide care along the way.
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She Waits for Her Family
The alarm is a shrill disturbance through the intensive care ward. Insistent for attention, it calls us to arms. We converge from all sides, pulling trolleys and monitors, checking charts and readings.
One begins CPR, another takes records. A call and response of drugs and volumes begin. We constantly observe the monitors, listening to the change in beeps. This is what it's come to — treating numbers and graphs.
As I step up to take over the next cycle of chest compressions, I can’t help thinking, this poor woman. Her chest has turned soft - a reflection of the numerous breaks in her ribs and sternum. There wasn’t much of life left in this lady when the night began, but at three in the morning, and on her fourth resuscitation, she’s stretching her borrowed time. Barely surviving, she waits for her family to arrive from the country to say goodbye. We wait for their consent so she can slip away peacefully.
Monitors return to normal as she returns to us. Her eyes open and she wails. I can only assume it’s from the pain. We numb it as best we can, and send her back into a floating slumber. For now, it’s our kindest gesture.
I hope her family arrives soon.
© Annabelle Khor
10th October 2017