Monthly Archives: April 2017

Leaving the world behind #4 – A visit from George Clooney! 

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. This series of posts are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

A visit from George Clooney! 

Being wheeled off to a ward after surgery was such a relief! Deliciously painfree after 6 days of severe discomfort, the heavily plastered limb totally numb and an array of metalwork now holding it all together, I was on cloud nine! Total immobility was required for a number of days to be followed by some weeks of non weight bearing as any pressure could ‘bend the metal’ or something like that.

Soon after arriving on the new ward, nature called. The red call-button that hung over the bed was duly pressed. An assistant arrived and the request was lodged. Routine stuff in a hospital ward takes a while, so I settled back on my comfortable pillows. Still pleasantly woozy and in a carefree floating hazy drug and anaesthesia induced sort of a stupor, I waited for my Florence Nightingale to return with the appropriate solution to my dilemma.


I  recall lamenting the passing  of the nurse in her starched cap and apron and the colour coded uniforms that distinguished between ward assistants, ancillary nurses, staff nurses and ward sisters. It’s always good to know who you are dealing with. Nowadays they are all in navy pants and tops and lord alone knows who we are speaking to. Its all very confusing. I harbour very real and deep seated fears that anyone, even the tea lady or a porter, might enquire about bowels, and that I may divulge the most personal information to an inappropriate person. What is one to do?

Modern hospital nurses, mixed genders, mixed uniforms!

About five minutes after my call for assistance there was something of a muted buzz of admiration on the all-female ward. From my vantage point furthest from the door, and through my druggy blur, I saw a very-handsome-all-smiling George Clooney lookalike cruise in. Gosh! WHO is HE visiting!  He glided down the ward and I realised that the very attractive lady in the bed opposite was going to be the lucky one…in all probability this is one of her handsome sons. I hoped that my hair, unwashed for a whole week, was not too bedraggled! I adjusted my blue paper hospital gown with the back opening that refused to stay closed and prayed (possibly aloud) that there would not be a bed pan or commode delivered to my cubicle in the presence of such a vision as ‘George’ who was approaching! After all, a girl is never too old to want to impress!

Within seconds ‘George’ with his beautiful smile was standing by my bedside. MY bedside!  MY BEDSIDE! Almost delirious,  I glanced at the envious faces in the other beds. Wishing  to impress, I tried, but failed  to recall the names of his films from deep within my drugged and anaesthetised brain. My blood pressure soared  and I swear my heart stopped! He swished the curtains around my bed, so that it was only me and him! Alone. In a cubicle. I surely have died and gone to heaven!

‘Come here to me now, girl’ says he in a thick County Cork accent, while he pulled back the sheet and revealed a glinting bed pan from somewhere behind his back.  ‘Roll over dere now, girl’ says he, forcing the cold steel into bed beside me. ‘You’re not George Clooney at all’ I muttered, totally mortified. ‘George Clooney?’ Not at all girl! I’m O’Sullivan from Ballydehob. Where are you from yourself?  Let me know when you are ready der, girl, will ya, just press da button’. He swept away as quickly as he came, leaving me scarlet faced,  bewildered and mortified. A spilt second later as I struggled to recover myself, he parted the curtain and asked in the loudest voice I have ever heard : ‘And did da bowels open today, love? If not,would ya like some prune juice? ‘

I hoped the ground would open up and swallow me!

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Leaving the world behind #3 – Company in Bed

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. This series of posts are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

Company in Bed

Following surgery on my broken leg I was transferred to a care facility by ambulance, to await further orthapaedic treatment. I was quite pleased to discover that I had been allocated a private room with a private bathroom. It smelt peculiar and slightly unpleasant but I resolved to ask if the bathroom might be swabbed down with bleach to freshen  it up. A small window did not allow much light in as it was only about two feet from a high wall, but as I later learned I was very fortunate to have a window at all and doubly fortunate to have a room of my own.

Exhausted after the transfer between institutions and delighted to have some bit of privacy after the 6 bed ward of the acute hospital, I settled into bed early with the TV for company and eventually dozed off.

During the night I became aware that there was someone in the room, and not only in the room, but climbing into the bottom of my bed. ‘Hello’ said he in a very quiet and friendly voice. ‘H..h..h..h..hello’ I blurted as he continued to climb in next to my plaster cast leg as I wondered if I should strike him with it. I said that I thought perhaps he was in the wrong  room, but he told me that I was in HIS bed. All the while I was fumbling for the emergency button and was grateful that at least he was climbing in to the bottom of the bed and not the top end!


After some minutes, help arrived and he was coaxed out of my bed and led back to his own space, further along the corridor.  Apparently he had a tendency to wander and he was regularly retrieved from beds that were not his own as he was confused.

It was an eye opening experience on my first night in a care facility, where patients who were physically capable of wandering about are free to do so.  I was immobile in the bed, with only my heavily plastered leg as a weapon to protect my honour! A close call indeed!

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Leaving the world behind #2 – Meeting Old Nick

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

Anastasia and Old Nick.

Anastasia was a truly lovely lady. She was here on a voluntary basis, had settled into her new home and was very content. She was shrewdly observant and made her way to the so called Library after tea each evening where she held court!  She was very proud of the fact that her parents were of a mixed marriage but that her father had insisted the children were all raised Roman Catholics.

She was one of many I met in here who was happy with her lot, content to be someplace where her needs were seen to, where she did not have to worry about looking after herself, about shopping for meals, about doctor appointments, about taking her medicines at the correct times. I do not recall her having had any visitors when I was there. Perhaps she had no immediate family nearby.

She usually announced her arrival in the ‘library’ with the immortal words: ‘Do you believe’? My standard reply was ‘In what? ‘, ‘In ‘Old Nick’ of course’ she would answer. ‘And who on earth is Old Nick?’ I would ask, knowing full well what she meant. ‘Old Nick is the Devil himself ‘ she said and  ‘If you don’t believe in him, he will come to get you’.

Anastasia felt especially safe in her bed at night as a priest had been the previous occupant.  He had been given the Last Rites and died in that bed that was now hers. ‘Can you imagine the prayers that were said in that bed’ she would say? Old  Nick would not dare go near her there!

Every night after my first meeting with Anastasia I wondered who had occupied this bed that was now mine, hopefully temporarily.  How many had slept here?  Had they died? Had they been anointed? And how many were priests?

I will be glad to get back to my own bed, that I have owned from new and that has not been an anointed death bed.

I need to get out of here!

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Leaving the world behind #1 – the ancient mariner. 

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The Ancient Mariner

Tall and distinguished, gold chain hanging from a waistcoat pocket, white shirt, with a perfectly knotted tie and wearing an exquisitely cut grey mohair suit, he arrives to the ‘library’. Probably in his 80s but looking younger, he is walking with a crutch, held backwards. He studies the library shelves, tilting his head slightly to one side to read titles on the vertical spines. Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy, Patricia Cornwell do not stir any interest. Ian Rankin, Nelson DeMille, Andy McNab? No! The so-called Library consists of two lots of shelves in a chair lined room, with a table on one wall, covered in white linen.

He makes return trips on several consecutive days after his first arrival. The mohair suit and the beautifully knotted tie, to my surprise, are evident each day too. How long before these sartorial  items will be replaced by track suit bottoms and a tee shirt?

Sitting in the corner of a ‘library’ in a care facility, I observe the comings and goings of older people who must leave the world behind when they pass through the locked door. Some for weeks, some for longer, some forever. I wait for my broken leg to heal over possibly six weeks. In six weeks I hope to be on the outside again. Will he ever be back out there to choose his very own reading material, to peruse his own bookshelves for his reading of choice?

He turns and walks towards other shelves and I catch a glimpse of a hearing aid. Other residents are being escorted to the dining room for the last meal of the day, some walking with support, some in wheelchairs, some slowly making their own way on legs that are no longer strong. ‘What  do you like to read’ I ask, quite loudly. ‘SEX’ he responds, in as strong a voice as I have heard within these walls!  ‘ I don’t  think you will find much of that here’ I respond as he goes back to scrutinise the book shelves only feet away from a table shrouded in white linen, adorned with artificial flowers and a pair of  extinguished candles, that lies in wait for the weekly Wednesday morning mass.

SEX. Nothing could be further from life in a care home, in a nursing home, in a home for the elderly. Yet this man seeks it on the few miserable book shelves, populated by popular fiction, easy reading, chick lit, in all likelihood donated on a charitable basis by family of the patients.  What, after all would an older person want? What else could they be expected to read? Several times a day he returns to the bookshelves, almost in disbelief. Where are the books he is interested in? Where are the books suitable for a single former merchant navy seaman on these shelves beside the stark white linen altar, prepared for mass? Bent in disappointment, he swings his reversed crutch and klonks his way towards the dining room.

I need  to get out of here.

 

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Seniors