Friday, April 23, 2010

The Brenda Photo Challenge ~ Light

I've sorted through my photos and have nothing new to post.  So thought I would revisit some glances at light from the past year: sunlight from the beginning of the day to the end of it.

Remembering Mary..

I held a dandelion in my hand the other day and an image of  Mary W. filled my memory.  It happened a long time ago.  That is as I, a mere human, reckon time.  I was a young person and an inexperienced nurse.  As I calculate the decades that would have made me about 20 years old.  I was working the night shift in a small private hospital that was rumored to have  beeen operated by "the mob" (more about that aspect of the tale another time).  I worked with one nursing assistant and cared for 30 patients.  The nights were slow most of the time. The seriously ill went to the likes of the Mass General or the Peter Bent Brigham. The absence of a critical care or E.R. rush  gave me an opportunity to spend time with my patients when needed.  I could be someone to talk to or someone to hold their hands as they waited for pain to subside.  On one particular winter night, the hand I held was a small frail part of a dying woman named Mary.  She had been in the hospital for many weeks.  Those were the days when patients could linger and are now long gone.  Mary was yet another patient for whom the doctors ordered placebos ~ she received saline 3 out of 4 injections.  Two hours prior to sitting with her I had dutifully delivered the saline injection. So many were treated with placebos in those years  

It was perhaps 1 A.M. when we sat in the dark together.   Mary and I could  hear a trolley clatter by on the track outside.   A few late night, rowdy college students piled out of the  transport and  slogged through the snow on their way back to the near by dorms.  They chatter away filling the night with youthful laughter.  I listened to their voices and wondered at a life that was so free.  I felt Mary's hand flutter.  She was impossibly thin.  The translucent skin with its blue veins covered delicate nearly weightless finger bones.   She tapped her finger impatiently...little rain drops on my palm.  "The medicine isn't working.  I hurt awful".  My heart sank.  I knew it wouldn't work, couldn't work.   She had a soft Irish accent (that sound, an intonation, a lilt, I came to love as a year turned into decades of living in Boston and other parts of New England).  "Will you let the Doctor know this medicine isn't helping me Dearie?"  I reassured her I would tell the morning nurse (again) and that I had documented the lack of relief.  The morning nurse and Mary's doctor  thought Mary was malingering.  She had endless diarrhea and was so thin that she could have blown away in a stiff wind.  Her condition had been written off to 'drug seeking' and living a hard life.  Mary was in her 40's, single and lived unmarried with a man.  He visited her often and  wept at her bed side from missing her.  Their relationship met with sharp disapproval from the staff.  When did the medical and nursing staff  stop seeing her?  Stop seeing her plight?  I was too young and inexperienced and not yet the 'bossy nurse' who learned over time to speak up and demand someone do their job for their patient.  Sadly, Mary was one of the women who helped me learn to do just that.  It was too little and  too late for her. My heart aches just a bit now as I remember her.  That night as we shared a moment, her room filled once again with the acrid odor of loose stool.  She winced and began to apologize for the 'mess'.  As I worked to clean her up I realized that the feces was pouring out of her vagina.  The sick odor was cancer.  It is, as I well know now, unmistakable.  Mary lasted several more weeks.  Our moments of chatting were brief.  She told me about her girlhood in Ireland and working in factories north of Boston.  She spoke through a haze of morphine.   The last week of her life, her man never left her side.  I'll never know why they never married.  I simply remember that thin delicate hand of hers laying in his huge hard working bear-paw of a hand.
Rest in peace Mary W.

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Personal Conspiracy Theory

Excess work, Spring and Lethargy have conspired to keep me away from my Blog.  The Terrible Threes even managed to hatch a plot to keep me alienated from my camera ~ for many weeks.  The  score in the game of life: The Threes v WR:  5 weeks to 1 day.  But what a glorious day it was.  Reclaiming my free time started yesterday and the sun was out (always a good sign - if one is given to looking for signs).  The battle has been engaged and I'm feeling 'feisty'.

Puget Sound is exploding with color.  I've been lulled into observing the slow dance of Spring and Winter.  It has been a seductive tango: a late frost a warm day, warm rain and cold rain...enough to bring out bulbs and leafs.  Gardeners are slowly creeping out of hibernation.  Migrating birds home from warmer climes.

A vacation is looming on the horizon.  A trip to see Alaska and it's glaciers.  The anticipation of a mental escape is building.  Good to be back.