An entry for The Writer's Cramp, Sept. 19, 2013
|Whatever she gave me for breakfast this morning was a disaster. It is bad enough that I could not taste anything, let alone release gas every ten minutes or so. It will only be a matter of time before I poop in my diapers, and there will not be anything I can do about it.
Someone is touching my wrist, feeling for my pulse. Ah, nurse Nina. She is always assigned to me at this shift, except for Mondays and Tuesdays. Might be a blessing or a curse for her, taking care of a middle-aged comatose woman, who any moment now will poop in her diapers. Her hands are smooth and her grip is firm. It’s good to feel these sensations every once in a while; it makes me feel alive. My stomach grumbles and I smell a foul odor. Please, someone cover my nose.
My daughter Lisa is here. She brought flowers, thank God. I hope the flowers masked the smell of my fart. I feel her hand squeeze mine. Ah, so good to feel not just the air tube rubbing against the edge of my lips, the smaller tube taped on my nose, my sore butt always swimming in piss and shit. I may not see my daughter but I feel her. There might still be a reason to live, after all. If I have any choice in this matter.
“Nina, how’s my mom?” My daughter’s voice is breaking a little. Did she just cry?
“Still the same, ma’am.”
Lisa touches my forehead. “Well, at least her fever’s gone,” she says. “Is Dr. Colts here?”
“He’ll be making his rounds in a while. May I?”
Lisa steps away from the bed, and I can hear the sound of the curtains on the rails in the ceiling, concealing my bed from the rest of the ward. Nina’s going to clean me now.
The first time a nurse cleaned me up, I was terribly embarrassed, although I couldn’t show it. I wasn’t sure if it was Nina or someone else. After setting up the curtains, she removed my hospital gown, leaving me stark naked with only a thin towel covering me. I had a catheter back then, so all she did was wipe my genitals with baby wipes and change my unsoiled diapers. She wiped my arms, legs, chest, and tummy with a wet towel. It was cold. I wanted to shiver, but I could no longer will my body to do anything. I could not even breathe on my own. After wiping the different parts of my body, the nurse slipped a fresh hospital gown over my body, managing to get through the web of tubes connected to my body. She wiped my face with the same towel, put pillows at my sides and a blanket over me, parted the curtains, then left. I didn’t feel clean at all; I felt violated. Imagine being bathed by someone in such a haphazard way.
But now, I really don’t care. I’ve lost count of how many times a nurse or an aide cleaned me up, and there is no reason to be embarrassed anymore. I probably smell just the same. When was the last time that I actually felt soap touching my skin? These days it’s just wet towels and baby wipes against piss and sweat and poop. I’m just thankful that at least someone cleans me up. Another reason to continue living.
After changing my diapers, I can hear Nina walking away, probably to dispose of my old diapers. I also hear several footsteps walking towards my bed. Again, Lisa’s hand brushing away the hair on my forehead.
“Dr. Colts, here’s the waiver.” It’s Nina’s voice again. So Dr. Colts is here. I wonder how he thinks I’m doing. If I could, I would ask him why I can’t move anything in my body. Am I dead? If I am, why am I still conscious of everything—the conversations, the movements, the discomforts? Why wouldn’t he give me a medicine that would make this damn sleeping body wake up?
“Ms. Rivers, all you need to do is sign this waiver,” Dr. Colts says. What waiver?
“You’re going to pull the tube from my mom?” Lisa asks, her voice breaking. My God, she is crying. And what’s this talk about pulling the tube? Is my daughter planning to mercy kill me?
“No, Ms. Rivers. It’s nothing like that.” How cool Dr. Colts’ voice is. How very mechanical. How many times has he done this? “This is a Do Not Resuscitate form. In the event that your mother’s heart stops beating, we will not try to extend her life anymore. No medications will be given, no CPR or rescue breaths—”
“Is it the right thing to do, Doc?” I can’t believe my daughter is seriously considering this. I am going to die!
“Well, considering the facts, it seems like your mother has no chance of waking up anytime soon. The accident caused a lot of damage to her brain and spinal cord. Her vitals are stable, but it’s only a matter of time...”
I feel Lisa move away from me. There’s the sound of pen scratching paper, and I just know that she has let me go. I feel my heart slow down a bit.
“I’m sorry, mom,” are the last words that I hear from my daughter, and then a flurry of footsteps, several frantic beeps, and then—nothing.