After my upper endoscopy, I was moved to a new floor full of nearly dying people.
My roommate was a tiny woman with long braided white hair,covered except for her head in a warm white blanket
I would discover that her name was Thelma, she was 93, and weighed so little that one tech could lift her onto a bedpan.
One time when the curtain between us was pulled back, she looked over and bid me a cheerful good morning.
She was traveling in the narrow trench between life and death. I learned very quickly that, although she was hard of hearing, she was still quite connected to her life. Her daughter visited three times, and was able to carry on conversations.
Once Thelma said, ” sometimes I feel as if I’m already gone,” but her daughter talked over that sentence with some problem from her own life and lost forever the chance to find out how it feels to be already gone but be capable of feeding herself, picking out what she wanted to eat and asking for a drink of water
Almost everyone who helped Thelma was tender, kind and compassionate. Sometimes at night, she would lose her nurses call button, and would yell “help me “up at the ink dark ceiling. I would push my nurses button and say that Thelma needed help. When they came her request would be real.
The only time anyone disrespected Thelma was yesterday morning. In a terrible scenario, two young and yapping nurses were standing on either side of her bed, not looking at her, talking even over each other in their eagerness to voice their personal concerns. After minutes of this, I said loudly, “ladies, you need to listen to your patient. She is asking for something.”
There was silence, but you could hear, if you chose to listen, that Thelma was asking for a bedpan. And perhaps some quiet mercy as she travelled down the corridor to the light beneath the sea.