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I'm in a perpetual phase of transition which doesn't seem to be phasing out.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stanley Shelton, Room 402

My dear friend Caleb and I ate a hefty lunch at this awesome Jamaican place today, aka a restaurant run by a bunch of white, dreaded rastas.  I stuffed my face and then wanted to walk around in the historic neighborhood that surrounds the restaurant to de-bloatify my belly.  So we took a nice long walk and found ourselves in this beautiful old cemetery.  Somehow I didn't catch myself feeling somber.  Maybe the nursing home is desensitizing me towards the issues of death and aging.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about that.  I definitely still have sensitivities towards things related to the nursing home environment, an event that occurred at work the other night proved that for sure.  I was getting ready to deliver clothes on 400 hall, the shortest and most ignored hall in the building.  As I started heading down the hall towards the first room, I heard a man cry out "WILL SOMEBODY PLEASE HELP ME GET UP?" It was the voice of Stanley Shelton, a man I'd never heard utter a word.  I was intrigued by this stoic man.  Sometimes when I came into his room he'd continue to stare blankly in whatever direction he was looking and completely ignore my presence.  Others times he would make soul searching eye contact with me and occasionally even lift his hand in a weak wave if I waved at him first.  I couldn't tell if he was pretty far gone or not, but I was fairly certain he was.  I liked to pretend he was just a man of few words who had wise, insightful thoughts flowing through his mind all day. 

He's tall and fragile and wears overalls and flannel shirts everyday.  He just seems like someone who's seen a lot, his eyes seem like they have lots of burning memories in them. His mouth is always arched downward, not necessarily in a frown, but in just sort of a stoic, detached expression.  I guess I just liked the idea of this man being a completely internal person who had moved beyond concerning himself with other human beings.

It turns out he actually is fairly out of it, has a very weak heart, and is not going to be around much longer.    I found this all out the day after I heard him cry out.  On the night I heard him yell, I rushed into his room and found him lying on the ground with a good bit of chunky drool forming a puddle on the floor below his mouth.  I have no idea how long he had been lying there, probably a while.  I crouched down and got pretty close to him and told him that I was going to get some help.  I rushed to the nurses station and four CNAs and a nurse came to check out the scene.  He told them that he had broken his hip.  They lifted him onto his bed and I left the room to deliver clothes to other rooms. 

From the room next door I could hear one of the CNAs telling Stanley that they had to change his clothes because he had to go to the hospital and the people there would cut his clothes off.  They changed him into an examination gown and every time they repositioned his body I heard him cry out in pain and horror.  I cringed every time and found myself getting pretty distraught feeling inside.

The next day I told my coworkers at my other job about it (I work at a little museum two Saturdays a month). My coworker Tammy was irate. She said she couldn't believe that the nurses would concern themselves with his clothes getting ruined. She had a good point, as much money as nursing homes bring in from residents and their families, it seemed like a pair of overalls and a flannel shirt should be easily replaced.

Anyway, as I was leaving work for the night shortly after finding Stanley, an ambulance passed my car heading towards the home.  I knew that they were coming for Stanley and I immediately burst into tears.  This person that I had idealized as almost beyond life, a sort of higher being within my midsts, was in fact human, and was in fact old and dying. 

I found out the next day that they couldn't operate on his hip because his heart was too weak.  He's back at the home and has just been sleeping a lot,  it won't be long before death comes knocking at his sad little  shared nursing home bedroom door.  I felt pretty depressed about the scene, it all replayed in my head over and over for the past couple of days. Everyone else around here is immune to these kinds of things.  I don't blame them, I mean they don't have a choice, but I just think I'm too emotional to ever go into medicine or geriatrics.

Zanie Rhoden, another resident died last week. Feels a little eerie considering I used her name as my blog pseudonym.  Well her name lives on through my silly little blog! As much as I'd like Stanley to hang on, it's probabl for the best if he just lets go.  No sense in living in misery.  (That's what I'd think when I was a little girl and realized I'd stepped on an insect but didn't quite kill it, and stomped on it again). The quality of life at that facility is terribly grim, it feels wrong to think "poor Stanley Shelton" because in my heart I think it's for the best that he passes fairly quickly into the beyond or the ground or wherever one ends up after all this insanity, and good times, and hardship, and love, and reason, and emotion that we call existence.