This is part 3 in what will be a 5 part story about an elderly woman I met quite by accident and her incredible impact on my life. To better understand how I came to know Celia and what lead to this point in the story, I hope you've read my last 2 posts.
I went straight to the hospital after work, stopping at the gift shop for a small bouquet and then at the information desk for directions to Celia's room. She was on the third floor and Bert was sitting right next to her when I entered her room. He looked at me gratefully and asked me if I'd stay with her while he took a smoke break. I nodded and settled into the chair next to her bed. Celia was barely aware of my presence, but she squeezed my hand when I said hello.
The cancer that had taken her eye a few years earlier was now invading her entire body. I had known for a while that she wasn't feeling well, but not being family, the nursing home was not obligated to disclose her physical condition to me when the cancer returned. Her pain was obvious. I stayed as long as I could, then sadly headed home.
For the next week I went straight to the hospital each night after work. Bert was always there, ever vigilent, powerless to help her, but holding her hand all the way. From my perspective, their violent history faded into nothingness and I marvelled at his love and loyalty. Celia's health deteriorated quickly, and she became unaware of her surroundings and her body was wracked by constant pain. I'd hold her tightly as she moaned and I'd wait impatiently for a nurse to bring Celia's next dose of morphine, which I knew would give her a short respite from the agony.
One evening near the end, the attending nurse brought the morphine in a tiny paper cup and lifted Celia's head to administer the dose orally. As I watched most of the precious drug dribble down Celia's chin due to her inability to swallow, I totally lost my cool. "Bring her another dose!" I demanded. "She hardly got any of that one and it's not going to last the 4 hours." The nurse shook her head, the doctor's orders were one dose every 4 hours, there would be no more til then. I'm normally a calm person, but this time I just lost it. "PLEASE BRING HER MORE NOW!" I said emphatically, "are you afraid she's going to get addicted or what! She's dying for Christ's sake, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU??"
The nurse looked at me coldly and her tone was icy, "who are you?" she asked, knowing full well that I was a simply a volunteer from the nursing home. "If you say another word, I'll have you banned from visiting. You're not family and you have no rights here". With that, the nurse turned her back on us and strode out of the room. I knelt down and took Celia in my arms. She was so tiny and the pain was immense. With each wave of pain her body shook like a rag doll.
With tears of frustraton streaming down my face I held her tightly and cursed whatever power had set this thing in motion. What the hell was I doing here, holding a stranger in my arms and trying to ease her pain? How had I become entangled in this mess? I knew nothing about medical matters or health care, I'd never seen anyone die, and this was certainly not of my choosing. I railed at the gods for setting this woman in my path.
I was helpless and the situation was hopeless.
To be continued....