Wednesday, July 11, 2007

At the doctor's

We took my mother-in-law to see the doctor this morning, "we" being Lovely Wife's Elder Sister, and Elder Brother who flew in this morning on his way to a business meeting in Houston. The visit was to get advice and information about a pressure sore on Barbara's buttock that has gotten much larger and deeper.

The doctor wasn't Barbara's regular doctor, but his wife, and she was familiar with with our situation. She listened very attentively as we explained about Barbara's recent visit to Washington and her return last night and our concern with how the sore was getting worse.

Before doing anything else, God bless her, the doctor said, "The first thing you need to know is that this is is not your fault. It is what happens when you are elderly, immobile and incontinent, and it cannot be helped. It is not the result of bad care giving. The fact that this hasn't happened much sooner is because of the exceptionally good care you have given. I want you to understand that." She said this with such sincerity, and dare I say love, that it put us at ease and made us feel we were all in good hands.

She then examined the wound by very gently pulling back the dressing. She talked constantly to Barbara, apologizing for any pain caused by removing the dressing, noting a wince pressure was applied to a particular place. She quietly pointed out something or another to the pre-medical student who accompanied her, estimated the size of the wound, and then covered it up again.

She then explained the difficult truth. This sore is not going to heal. It will become infected, and that will be a "life-ending event" (the only euphemism used during the visit). It may not happen for some time, but it will happen. We cannot fix the wound, she said, but we can and will provide care to keep her comfortable and free from pain. We will get help in our home from a wound team in dressing the wound and keeping it clean, and from the hospice team who will visit and provide other services.

All of this was delivered in a perfectly sincere, respectful, sympathetic manner. she looked us in the eye. There was no question that she understood the import and gravity of the information she was giving us, or that she felt for us.

This confirmed what the hospice nurse in Washington had told us, and it now feels as if we've moved into some new stage of our lives, where the end isn't just theoretical any more but within sight, and approaching. It feels right somehow to be here, now. There is a kind of holiness about it.


We are now sitting on the front porch, the three of us, in the cool and dark of the evening. The birds have mostly stopped singing, and it’s either too cool or too early for crickets (maybe both). Barbara is sleeping in her chair, and there is a glass of good red wine nearby. The leaves of the trees are whispering in the breeze. Somewhere to the north a dog is barking, and to the south a train is crossing the bridge over the Mississippi. I feel so incredibly in love at the moment, not in love with something or someone, but simply in love. As one of my favorite Sacred Harp songs, Aiken, goes,

Within thy circling power I stand,
On every side I feel thy hand.
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.


Liz Opp said...


What a lovely accounting of such a tender time. I'm sorry for the news and glad for the care--and the Care--that you, LW, and your mother-in-law have been provided.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

anj said...

Paul - Your post moves me to tears. You express well the 'kind of holiness' about it. I am grateful that in the midst of this holy space you have a caring Doctor, who can affirm the care your mother-in-law has been given, and you find yourself in love. And, along with Liz Opp, I am sorry for the news. The song you have quoted speaks much to me, I pray you will continue to feel that Presence.

Paul L said...

Thank you both for your kind comments. This is both too beautiful and too sad to have to enjoy and suffer alone.

It is comforting to know that others can share the experience with us through this strange new medium.

P.S. The word verification letters that appear right now are: jesuoto
My Latin isn't as competent as it once was, but couldn't that be understood as "Jesus's ear?"