Saturday, September 26, 2009

My First Visit

I went to visit my first hospice patient today.

It was a beautiful day. After several days of rain that broke a months long drought and heat wave, the sun was out, the sky dotted with small clouds, the air was clear, clean and cool as I drove to the nursing home.

Mr. B. lives in a very upscale nursing home in the hills west of Austin. He is in his early eighties and has been diagnosed with a 'failure to thrive', which essentially means that he has no hope of recovery from his illness. I found out today that this is an infection deep in his back that has resisted all attempts to fight it off and has now taken over. He is bed-bound.

I learned this from his nephew, J., whom I recognized from another life, so to speak. Years ago--thirty to be exact--I worked at a private club downtown whose members were among Austin's elite,powerful and wealthy. J. was a young real estate developer back in the day, and we instantly recognized each other. It was one of those synchronistic moments; just meant to be.

J. agreed to intorduce me to Mr. B., so he and I and his attendant R. all went in and gathered round Mr. B's bed. J. told him I was a friend from thirty years ago, whihc seemed to have some resonance.

Mr. B. was clearly pleased to see someone new. He was also pleased to see someone older (or who at least appeared older--after all, J. is likely ten years my senior) because he looked right at me and said "You've got some years on you!" He stroked his chin with a smile.

"Indeed" I said, realizing that my white beard was valuable 'coin' in this realm, where so many caregivers seem like they are right out of high school.

I have to say that the staff I met today were young, of course, but the most professional and caring individuals I've encountered in this environment. Of course my experiences with Lynda were limited by finances. While I thought we did pretty good with what we had, it's clear that I could have done better for Lynda.

With three of us in the room it felt a little crowded, so I did not stay. I told Mr. B. that I'd come by just to introduce myself and schedule another time to come see him. He seemed quite pleased to hear that I would come back tomorrow at ten. He said he would be 'honored', but I am quite sure it's the other way round.

So I will go again tomorrow to find out more about him and see what, if anything, I can do for him. The nurse told me that he likes classical music, particularly opera, so the stacks of CD's that Lynda left me may be destined for him.

I have no real plan nor expectation other than being present tomorrow. We'll see what happens.


bc said...

To think that you "could have done better" for Lynda is nonsense. Please don't carry that burden!
If you're serving Hospice for that reason, it won't work. You're serving that noble cause because of the genuine altruism in your heart, not for any expiation. Right?

Greyghost said...

Thanks for your concerns. Although my motives for serving Hospice are hardly altruistic--I fear I am no different from all other selfish humans in that regard--please, worry not, m'dear.

I am not carrying a burden of guilt about what I did-or did not do--for Lynda. For that reason, no expiation is really needed. Now, I am realistic about the quality of care that she received. I know it could have been better, but I also know that it could also have been worse.

In this case, I was only pointing out that having seen this man's rather luxurious (by nursing home standards) living arrangement, I gained some valuable perspective. For the first time since that oh-so-blurry year, now, I could see where the institutions that Lynda lived in fit in the general 'scheme' of things.

I have no doubt that I will find one or more of my future Hospice patients in conditions far different, likely worse, than Mr. B's.

It was good introduction, if you will, since the experience was softened a bit by the comfortable surroundings. It's tough to know how to write about all this, but in the future, I will endeavor not to tie the experiences too closely to my experiences with Lynda.