Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Last night I held someone's hand

Lastnight after placement I strolled into work expecting a frenzy. For two reasons: there generally isn't a dull moment on a regular day and guy's roommate Gui was supposed to be released from the hospital after having a hospital stay due to a serious seizure he'd had Sunday evening. It was a status seizure (the worst kind and the only kind he has, when he has them). He had only been getting them around once a year and had one in May around when I started. However infection brings them on and he also had that so it was prime time for such an event to occur.

Let me tell you about what the following few days to a week after a seizure for him is like ... intense. His regular aggressions times ten. At least that's how it was the week after he had the last one (two weeks into my training) enough to make me wonder to myself what the heck I was doing. One day they had to call in 2 extra staff making it three for one person.

Anyways all of that being said I think you could understand my expectations for a circus that night at work. However when I walked in I learned Gui had not yet been released. He'd only been excavated - wait that doesn't sound right, let's say un-intabated (sp?) My manager informed me that she needed someone to pick him up as she thought he was being released that evening and I was the lucky staff to do it (since the other person on had a cold and the ICU doesn't like colds). I was nervous about the whole thing since the night before I was talking to Sista and she said that it normally took 2 staff to bring him home because he was usually very grouchy when coming off of te drugs they use to keep him "under" and difficult to handle. My manager didn't seem to think this way so off we went.

when we arrived at the hospital we soon learned that Gui would not be coming home that night because of a fever they wanted to monitor (phew!) so instead I was asked to stay for 3 hours to 'support' Gui. I have to say that I really had no idea what she wanted me to do. He had his own nurses and all the attention one could need in ICU so when I asked my boss what she wanted me to do she just said be there, do a brief change if they need it (um hello that's what the nurses are for and there was no way I was going to try and change him myself in a strange place with machines, tubes and all the like around - and by the way he had a catheter in anyway). I had no problem staying I just wanted to know what to do - because that's what I do ... stuff that needs to be done.

I have learned in the past few weeks that sitting with someone matters. I support a couple of ladies in nursing homes: one who's in her early twenties and shouldn't be in a nursing home but because of a lack of knowledge that's where her parents put her. and the other is a lady in her mid fifties that has Down Syndrome with early onset of dementia (60% of people with Down's have some from of Alzheimer's), I support her through supper. Mostly with Dolly (the latter) I sit and colour with her, reassure her that 'Jacob' her imaginary friend that apparently hits, slaps and teases her is gone away. I tell her to tell him to leave or go away at which time she does and follows it by sticking out her tongue or taunting him, or putting up both palms to her ears (sticking straight out like) kind of like saying 'Na na na boo boo'. She's an interesting character. However she experiences something called 'sundowning' behaviour around that part of the day, so I go eat supper with her (she likes to eat apart from the other people on the floor) I try to get her to calm down and hopefully eat.

After my recent experiences I know that sitting matters. I know that presence matters. I know that little things like that matter. I don't know why I thought it'd be different for my friend Gui but I did question my boss ... yet I stayed. I sat down after a while and watched the cable the nurse put on for me while Gui looked around, tried to get as comfortable as his arm and hip restraints would let him. when Big Mama and I got there initially he vocalized a bit, smiled and appeared to be glad we were there. This may be a no brainer to some but Gui sometimes smiles at odd times so it's not always like "oh he's smiling he's really happy" or anything - sometimes it is but not always. After a few minutes with the both of us the nurse that was there commented that this was the calmest he saw Gui all day, 'wow that's good' I thought.

I continued to sit beside him, watch my newly acquired cable and hold his hand which most of the time he held onto and squeezed. There were a few times he'd let go , I'm going to assume because it got pretty sweaty. After the three hours were up I stood, shut the tv off, turned to Gui, took his hand and told him I had to get going and that I'd see him on Thursday. Just to give you an in on his mental status Gui is very low functioning (by that I mean no disrespect, it's just the term that is most easily understood). He can complete simple commands if he wants to like 'turn on the light', 'pick that up please', 'get your shoes' but other than simple things you don't expect a while lot of rationale with him. Staff have often talked about he knows far more than we think or even know he knows but it's hard to figure him out sometimes. As I was leaving I really didn't expect anything from him. You don't usually get a lot of emotion in departures though they are there just not completely understood. As I said my goodbyes and he really squeezed my hand (and I really didn't think anything of it) I looked at his face and, I'm not kidding here, saw a tear falling from each eye. They weren't the fat rolling kind, they were the damp streaming kind, but definitely there slowing creeping down his fevered face. I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd never seen that before (of course I've only been around for 6 months - but still).

I left the hospital room and thought. I wondered if that was an emotion or a reaction the the alcoholic hand sanitizer I'd just applied, I couldn't imagine the hand sanitizer would do that from afar - the nurses applied it several times a shift. Who really knows what Gui was thinking or more importantly what he was feeling. As I was leaving I decided I did matter, my hand mattered, my presence mattered, my voice mattered ... he mattered.

Last night I held someone's hand. I was their person. What an honour.