I had just finished playing some online games with my friends as well as my brother. As per the nightly ritual, and as per the ritual of online gaming, a headset was dawned and we were all conversing with an upbeat and enthusiastic tone on a wide range of topics. Eventually though, the night of gaming would draw to a close, and video game machines would be turned off, and headsets would be removed. It was following that, that my mind began to wander.
My apartment was silent. Absolutely free of noise. Even the refrigerator had ceased with its buzzing. As time passed, I began to hear a subtle sound emerge. It was the sound of me breathing. Deep concentrated inhalations, followed by a sudden release, and then repeat. As my ears played for me the sound of my breathing, my wounded medic’s mind began transporting me back to another time where I had heard such a noise. A type of breathing noise. Not nearly as peaceful though. The further I fell into its rumination, the more my living room transformed into the cold and lifeless room in that nursing home that I had been to years ago. As the room morphed seamlessly with the rumination, I began to see her. The woman on the floor.
I know that in reality there was no one on my floor. But, tell that to my eyes. Convince my mind of such assurances. Please…
I began to remember. Recall and relive, each moment of that day. The day we found her. Carelessly lain on the cold linoleum floor. An audience of “nurses” standing around, looking at her. Watching as she struggled for air. This was the sight now taking place in my living room some five years later.
The call came in as “breathing problems” if I remember correctly, and I think I do. My partner, an experienced paramedic with the years of service to match her skill. A good medic to be paired with.
As we entered the room and glared at the onlooking “nurses” we became aware of an elderly woman lain on the floor with nothing more than a night gown for comfort. Her skin was pale and boasted a variety of blue veins that slinked along the surface of her tired and aging skin. She wasn’t just having a hard time breathing, she was indrawing her last worldly breaths. Well, trying to.
My partner and I quickly and meticulously knelt beside this old, grey woman on the floor, while readying our equipment. My partner was rummaging through the airway bag, and I was prepping the monitor. As I placed the de-fib pads on the old woman’s chest, my partner threw a question to the still motionless but all to curious “nurses” she asked if there was a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) order in place. A good question to ask in this type of nursing home. After some confusion on the part of the nurses, one of the more competent and confident ladies spoke up and said “yes”. My partner and I both looked at one another in a fleeting glance of “Why the hell wouldn’t they have told us that upon entry into the room!?” My partner demanded to see it with haste. After the realization that this was of serious concern, one of the other “nurses” ran from the room and down the hall. Through a series of broken accents, we were informed that the running lady had gone to fetch the crucial document.
After what seemed like entirely too long, an out of breath Filipino lady returned and handed me a green folder. Within it was a series of paper that indicated that in the event a medical situation should occur, the old lady on the floor wish to have no interventions on her behalf. Meaning, she wanted to die should that be the situation that arises. And this was that situation. She was dying. Right there on the floor beside me.
After reading the necessary information, I handed the folder to my partner, and while doing so, gazed towards the old ladies worn out face. Her bulging eyes indicated panic and unrivaled fear. This was horrible because, there was literally and legally nothing my partner and I could do, other than watch. Something I did not want to do.
I chose to stand at that point, and distract myself with the Toughbook (computer) that we used for documenting our encounters with patients. I started entering in the information about this fading woman at my feet. I wanted to look at anything except her. This all felt so wrong. Almost inhumane. As I was inputting information, I began to feel a rather peculiar and perplexing sensation, tapping against my right foot. I pulled my attention away from the Toughbook held within my hands, and peered downwards towards where I was feeling this out-of-place sensation. I wish I hadn’t…
Upon looking down, I was now hideously aware at my proximity to the old dying woman on the floor. Matching her erratic breathing pattern, were a series of slow and zombie like hand movements. An outstretching of her arms along the floor and a splaying of her old and knotted fingers. Her hand and her fingers had been ‘tapping’ and somewhat ‘pulling’ at my work boot.
I know this was not purposeful on her part but, the combination of her bulging eyes that changed from alive to unmistakably deceased, along with her zombie crawl towards my foot, made for a terrifyingly perfect image, sure to last a lifetime. And so far, it has.
Nearing the end of my rumination, I stood from my couch, now sweating a little more than I should be, I began vigorously clenching my toes of my right foot. I even used my left foot to grind atop of my right, in some futile attempt to rub the sensation of the past away.
Have you ever been asleep, and had the sensation that someone was pulling the blankets off of you at the foot end? Well, when I dream about this old lady, it’s like that but, horrifyingly real. Just like it is right now. Horrifying…
Now that I’m done writing about it, I think I will make a tea and put on a podcast or something. Something funny no doubt. Anything to hold me in the here and now, and not back in a sad dying seniors room of the past. When I’m done that, hopefully I’ll get some sleep.