I sat with her today for a very long time. We had to take a scary ride together. Scary for her. No less difficult for me. I had to tell her what was going on in her life, her life that she is slowly losing control of. I had to explain it to her again. Again. And many more times yet. She told me stories about her life. Stories I knew. But each time she told me I listened, intently, to hear about the child she was. The young bride she became. The faith she relied on. And when she told me this again, and yet again, I smiled and encouraged her to tell me more.
I had to leave her to get and share some information with medical staff.
I came back to her and sat on the stool by her bed. I smiled at her and she smiled back. “Hi again” I said.
She chuckled and said “hi”.
“Do you remember my name Mrs. Gentle Lady?”
“You’re my doctor” she said. I couldn’t help but laugh, which made her chuckle again.
I said “no, no. Do you remember that I rode here with you?”
“Yes, I remember that. But I thought you were my doctor.”
I said “well I am sitting in the doctor’s chair aren’t I?”
“Yes you are!”
“And I’m sitting here with a file and I bet I kind of look like a doctor. But I’m not. I’m Colleen.”
“Well, I still like to think of you like a doctor.” She made me laugh. Which made her smile. And her cheeks turn pink.
I looked at her tiny little self in the cot sized bed and took comfort from the color in her cheeks. Took comfort from her gentle and constant questioning. Took comfort from being able to give her answers. Took comfort from knowing she will be taken care of. I accepted in that squad run, in that hospital, that she was being given comfort.
Later, I said goodbye to her. I knew I would have follow up on this case. On this person. I returned to work. I did what I do. People left as I returned to the office. Someone came in and spoke to me. Someone called me. I typed and typed. I made phone calls and typed some more. I finished what it was I had to do at that moment. I stood up. There is no comfort in this at all. None. Not now. Not doing this part. This acknowledgement that she is not who she always had been. She can’t acknowledge it. But I can. Even knowing her for a matter of hours, I knew she was not aware of as much of her life as I was. And what was happening to it. Even knowing that what was done was for safety and well being-there was no comfort.
And for the first time I can remember I walked in to the bathroom at work. Silent. Alone. And cried. For her losing her life, while she’s still in it.