Thursday, August 13, 2009

As the Stomach Turns Part III

Part I, Part II.

I was still frantically pressing the call button when a nurse skidded into the room.

"What's wrong?" She asked looking a bit frazzled.

Pointing to the curtain that separated me from my roommate I shakily explained, "She just started screaming for help and I didn't know what to do."

I had just hung up from talking to Hans when a few feet away from me, but separated by a curtain, my faceless roommate began shrieking hysterically for help.

Hence my frantic pushing of the call button.

With a knowing look the nurse said, "It's ok, it's just Elizabeth and she does this." And with that she yanked the curtain aside, and slowly and loudly asked, "What's wrong now , Elizabeth?"

With a kind of morbid fascination I listened to their exchange.

Elizabeth had to go to the bathroom but when told that she had a catheter she quickly changed tactics.

"What's this?" She asked in a pitiful voice and I felt awful just knowing that she was probably asking about her IV or something similar. Had she been unconscious upon her arrival at the hospital?

"That's your blanket," the nurse patiently answered. This really threw me. She didn't know what a blanket was? Did she have a stroke?

Elizabeth moaned loudly and asked once again, "What's this?"

"That's your wrist band."

And then I realized that my roommate had Alzheimer's.

Elizabeth finally calmed down, the nurse left, and it was time for dinner. For everyone else anyway. I got a huge cardboard cup of what looked like lime juice but wasn't. Its purpose was to clean me out for my morning colonoscopy. I told the nurse I was already pretty darn clean but she told me to drink it anyway.

When Hans walked in three hours later Elizabeth had been screaming for help the whole time ("you have a catheter," "that's your blanket," again and again and again!), I nearly got callouses from pressing the call button so many times, but by golly my stomach was happily grinding away.

The curtain had been pulled closed between us for the night and when I caught sight of Hans in the doorway, instead of crying out in welcome, I immediately made frantic waving motions and 'be quiet' faces and he probably thought a psych evaluation should be part of my stay also. But before Hans could utter a word and how she even knew anyone was in the room, Elizabeth bellowed, "Who's there! Who is that?"

I bellowed right back, "It's my doctor and you have to be quiet, right now!" And while Hans looked stunned, Elizabeth said in a very meek voice, "All right."

Trying to use the TV for background noise in hopes that it would throw Elizabeth off the track, I gave Hans a slightly hysterical whispered version of what my day had turned into. In the meantime his pants were stained and wrinkled from his SUV adventure and he still had about an hour to go to get to my house. During this time Dr. Hans had to admonish Elizabeth many times that she should 'settle down', and Elizabeth would, in a very tiny voice, thus making us feel like heels, agree.

Hans assured me that he would be there in the morning in time for my tests and finally left for his overnight stay at my house.

At ten o'clock I was to get more pain killers and a sleeping pill but unfortunately amongst all of Elizabeth's emergencies I only received the sleeping pill. I really needed the pain medication but in addition to not wanting to bother the nurses any more than I already had, I also harbored the fear that I would become a pain killer junkie and I envisioned myself skulking about the corridors stealing other patients medications.

So time dragged on, and Elizabeth, who just like a baby that had its days and nights confused, seemed to gather steam and screamed with mind numbing regularity. Needless to say I quit pushing the panic button and if my IV pole would have allowed it, I very well may have sashayed on over and pressed a pillow to her face.

It was that bad.

I told her over and over that the doctor said she had to be quiet and she would agree yet immediately start to scream again. Trying to read or watch TV was impossible for me.

She called out many times and by now I was 'Jeanette' in her mind and I was knitting a sweater. I was asked for updates on said sweater so many times that I finally quit answering her in hopes that she would forget her questions, and then once again I felt despicable when, in a very hurt voice she said, "Fine, don't talk to me."

Then, just like that, she shut up.

I drew in a couple of slow breaths, tried to relax and then realized I had to use the bathroom. Ever so slowly I eased my way out of bed and tried not to make any noise which, because of the plastic lined mattress, is like trying to unwrap a candy bar in a house with kids or a dog. But, miraculously I made it to the potty, and even with the door open (thanks to my too tall IV pole), there was still no word from Elizabeth. I was just sliding back into bed when Elizabeth dared to roar, "WHO'S MAKING ALL THAT NOISE!!!!"

Oh my God, you've got to be kidding, my mind screamed, and I felt just like I was in a 1940's movie where the heroine has been mistakenly locked away in a psychiatric ward and lies in her bed tossing her head to and fro, except in the movie the heroine's hair is perfectly coiffed and she's wearing false eyelashes.

With a vengeance Elizabeth was back on track shrieking for help, and by now it was past midnight, and I couldn't take another second of her behavior. My sleeping pill wasn't doing a damned thing and when I pressed the call button it was for me only.

"Get me out of here," I said, "Or I'm going to kill her or myself." And I meant it.

It was around one AM when I landed in my new room.

But guess what?

I had a new roommate.


Kathi D said...

You are so mean to us. Boo hoo!!

Mary Witzl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary Witzl said...

oor Laura -- and poor Elizabeth! And there is nothing like that good old morning colonoscopy. I always comfort myself with the thought of all those missed calories. (My spell check doesn't recognize 'colonoscopy'. Good for my spell check.)

There is a special kind of heaven for the people who care for Alzheimer's sufferers with tenderness and patience. I doubt I'd make it, but you never know. And I hope to God my kids are never tested.

Friends of ours do this for a living. One of them had to go to the house of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer's and had had a bout of intestinal flu. Every square inch of the house had to be cleaned, even parts of the ceiling. And she was still gentle and painstaking with the lady, who never even recognized her.

Mary Witzl said...

Um...that should be 'Poor Laura'. Good grief, this is worrying. Must be the very thought of Alzheimer's...

(My word verification here is 'numph'. I kid you not.)

laura said...

Kathi, I'd say I'm nice! I didn't use the pillow did I?
Mary, believe me I really did feel sorry for Elizabeth. I can't imagine one's life being reduced to absolutely nothing, because that's what Alzheimers does. Not for one second do I want my loved ones trying to care for me if I end up like that. Just stick me in a home and hope that very patient people work there!

Angelia said...

How sad,,, and how annoying all at the same time! Hope all is well now!! and you get a good nights sleep!

Kathi D said...

I didn't say you were mean to Elizabeth! To US!!! Making us WAIT!!

laura said...

Sorry Kathi!! I thought you were insinuating that you were in the nutty majority! Now why would I have thought that? Anyway now that I found a fix for my computer and I can actually type I will update my story in a more timely fashion.

Anonymous said...

It's 2:30 AM and I should be in bed but I started part 1 and I had to read the whole thing. I can't wait until part 4. You're a good writer.

laura said...

Thanks Joan! If you were still up at 2:30 AM I'll assume your new granddaughter had something to do with it!