Well, it looks like it’s time for me to write one of these.
Back when I had the whole gallbladder saga, I spent 8 days in the hospital. a lot of people shared my room, but a lot of them were just coming out of surgery or just about to leave, so I didn’t really get to know them. But there was one woman who I kind of became attached to and that was Lynne. Now I’ve gotten the news that she’s passed away and it’s affecting me more than I would expect the death of someone who I only knew for a couple weeks to affect me. Maybe if I write down our story, it will make sense.
I met her after my first room move. It was the day after surgery, and I was straight up loopy. I blame my endocrine system being in total freakout mode, but it turned me into an emotional wreck. Lynne was in the next bed, and somehow, her calm manner made me stop, take a breath and separate my perception of reality from actual reality. She had been in the hospital for several days, and she had no idea when she was getting out. But she was fine with this, was just dealing with whatever came as it came.
We had lots of jokes together. I got a giant gift basket from work, and she joked that I’d better keep an eye on it or she might just scoop it up. We talked about movies, places in KW, she talked about her kids and I learned all of their names. She’d always keep an eye out for me. When I’d get up and go to the bathroom, she’d let me know if I was going astray. On the weekend when there were less nurses on duty, some of our fellow room-mates would ring the bell because they had to go to the bathroom, but soon realized they could get there if they had their walker. I was the only one who could get up easily, so I would head for people’s walkers and Lynne would tell me if I got the right one. Hehehe. If only the nurses knew what trouble we got into.
It was funny. She got moved, and we said a few parting words, but we thought that was that. But they moved me again, and we ended up back in the same room. It was after this move that we really got to know each other. I got to know her daughter too.
I don’t know what it was, but I always wanted to return the favour she did for me for bringing me back to reality and calming me down just by being calm and level. I would see her struggling in the hospital but not know what to do. I noticed that her birthday was coming, every time anyone would come to do anything, they would ask us for our names and birth dates. So, I hoped against hope that she would get out in time for her birthday, and I swore that I would get her a yummy gift basket of her very own and get it to her. But when I left, she was having a really hard day, so I didn’t get to exchange information with her so we could keep in touch.
A couple of days later, I tried to call her at the hospital, she had her own phone, and it was a busy phone. I asked for her name, and they said they had no patient under that name. I was sure I was screwed at this point. She had been released and I would never find her. But a couple of days later, something compelled me to try again, and I got her.
But something was wrong. She could barely speak above a whisper, but I got her to say “yes” and the way she said “yes” was the way I remembered from the hospital, so I knew I had the right one. Then she recognized me. “Carin, I’m pulling your tricks,” she said. I finally realized this meant she had tried to leave the hospital and had to come back. This conversation wasn’t going well, she could barely talk.
Her daughter got on the phone and explained everything. She said her blood pressure had dropped super low and she had to call the paramedics. I decided to come visit her the next day, even though the thought of going back into the hospital I had been so happy to leave was an almost scary one. Nothing against the hospital or the staff, just…8 days in there is too long, at least for me, especially since I was sooooo close to getting out. An irrational small part was worried the nurses would say “actually some results came back, and you have to stay some more.” I know, it’s irrational.
I came to see her, and I’ll never forget that day. I got there, and she could barely speak, but man did she ever try. She knew that pointing would not do the job, so used every last ounce of her energy to use her words to talk to me. I remember one of the first things she said to me was “Carin, go. Value your freedom.” I think this was her way of teasing me and telling me to get out of there before they caught me and kept me, like kept happening to her.
I sat down by her bed and tried to talk to her…but what she was saying wasn’t making any sense. She said something about “what a treacherous rainfall out there,” except it was bright and sunny outside. Then she tried to eat, but her hands would not cooperate, and she ended up spilling the food. They cleaned it up and brought her more. I figured out that if I held the container still, she could use a spoon and eat.
I have to give her credit. Even though she was having trouble communicating, she saw something hilarious in us trying to communicate, each not quite getting the whole message. Even though we were probably both a little frustrated, I remember sharing a laugh about the ridiculousness of this situation.
I’ve come to realize that while all of this was happening, I was watching her take a stroke. It was starting to become clear while I was there, but stupid me was trying to remember the things you test for when you’re witnessing someone take a stroke. Raise your arms? No I can’t ask her to do that, she’s lying down and could be wearing all kinds of IV’s. Smile? Yeah, what good would that do me? I can’t see if one side of her face was drooping. Get her to say “The sun is shining in Cincinnati”? She can’t speak at all, that won’t work either. Hello, idiot, those are things you do when you’re *out* of the hospital. How about ring the bell like a bugger? You’re in a building full of medical personnel for Christ’s sake. But stupid me sat there trying to download communication apps so maybe we could talk. This woman is taking a goddamn stroke right in front of your face, ring her bell ring her bell ring her bell!
Eventually her daughter came to visit, and I relayed what was going on. She agreed that she was probably taking a stroke, but seemed to be having trouble flagging down nurses. So I finally did what I should have done a long time ago, I went and got help. I looked as blind as I possibly could so someone would ask me if I need help. Then I brought them to Lynn.
They decided that something had gone awry, and she ended up in the ICU, where they found out she had a stroke, and she stayed there for days. She spent her birthday wired up to all kinds of things. That made me sad. But she fought back and eventually could go home. That woman was made of steel. I remember visiting her another day while she was in the ICU. She could barely talk, but still made a joke. I said, “Man, you’re getting the slow guided tour of this hospital. You’ve been on both wings of the fifth floor and then a couple of wings of the sixth and now you’re here in the ICU,” to which she responded by singing “I’ve been everywhere, man…” I laughed so hard and it gave me hope that she’d be ok.
I said to myself that I would try and see her, but life decided I needed a constant companion, the captain. That damn illness kept me from doing more than I absolutely had to. Plus, to be honest, I always felt like visiting Lynne would put a burden on her or her kids since I found out she lived in a part of town that was kind of tricky for pedestrians, so I thought someone would have to give me a bit of an assist once I got closer. Hello, dorkbag, ever heard of a cab? Ya know, the things you use every day to get to far less critical places than your friend who could probably use some cheering up? So I never visited her, even though I wanted to. I never phoned her because I didn’t know if she could talk on the phone. I wanted to ask her daughter, but could never find the appropriate place to ask. So from June until now, I thought of her, but never acted on any of those thoughts. I texted her daughter sometimes, but probably not as much as I should have. Her daughter moved away in October and I was sure I was screwed at that point. She would have changed her cell number and unless she texted me first, the connection was gone.
But like the song “the cat came back”, she texted me at Christmas from the same phone number. We reconnected, apparently just in time.
Three weeks later, I got the call saying Lynne had had cardiac arrest and was in the hospital, and this time it wasn’t looking good. But because she is a woman of steel, she fought for 2 more weeks before finally giving in and leaving us.
I did get to see her one last time, but true to form, I was paralyzed by my own fears I would screw something up. I wanted to put her hand on Tansy’s head because I knew she liked dogs…but she was hooked up to all kinds of things and I had to wear gloves so couldn’t feel things very well, so because I didn’t want to jostle any of those important tubes, the best I could do was pat her hand. I wanted to tell her thanks for helping me out in the hospital, that she helped me more than she could ever know, but not one word exited my mouth. You know all those soap operas where someone’s in a coma, and people come and talk to them, with long soliloquies about their feelings? Well, that didn’t happen for me. All I could do was sit there and say nothing…just sit there, knowing this is probably the last time I would see her, but I could say nothing at all.
And I found out this morning that she passed away last night…so that was the last time I saw her. I hope that when she went, she went peacefully and with family around her.
Damn this sounds less like a tribute and more like a pathetic string of pleas for forgiveness from the world at large for letting her down so epically. I don’t mean for it to sound like that. I guess I hope that if anyone else has a sick friend or relative out there and wants to visit them, read this and do better than I was able to do, because there will come a time when you will run out of opportunities, and then you will have the feeling of no one to blame but yourself.
Look at how many chances I was given. If there are weird beings upstairs pushing buttons, they really tried to push us together, but still, I could not get over my own inability to do what I know was the right thing to do.
So Lynne, I hope you’re now at peace. This last while has been an epic struggle. Even though I didn’t know you long, your calm ability to take whatever as it comes, and your incredible inner strength will be something I always remember. I’m just sorry I couldn’t do more before it was all too late.