A few days ago, my grandmother had gall bladder stone problems and had to go to the hospital for surgery. But yesterday, her intestines apparently stopped moving, which complicated procedures and meant that she couldn’t eat or drink anything. My mom, dad, and grandpa had already taken turns staying overnight with her and were exhausted, so last night I stayed with her while they got some well-deserved rest at home. I wrote most of this last night while she slept:
My grandmother is in the hospital right now. I am with her.
Right now, she’s sleeping. That’s good because it means the pain has ebbed away some — enough for her to get some rest at least. The room is mostly darkened, except for the light by which I’m typing this on my phone, and the computer screen by the bed for the nurses and PCT’s (Patient Care Technicians, or nursing assistants) to use. I’ve never seen my grandmother look so frail. A clear plastic tube is taped to her lip, connected on one end to her nose and on the other to a pump on the wall. I asked the nurse earlier what it was for. She replied that it’s slowly draining out everything in her stomach. Hopefully, that will help the stones to pass.
It’s getting late, so there’s isn’t a whole lot of noise out in the hallway now; there’s even less noise in here. The only apparent sound is my grandmother breathing, softly and slowly, as she lies on her bed with a few extra pillows tucked under her head. A cup of half-melted ice is by her bedside, from which I’ve spoon-fed her a couple times since everyone else left, since she’s not allowed to drink water. Another tube, much thinner than the first, runs from her arm up to an IV pack hanging on a metal, coat-hanger like stand. Right now, it’s all that’s giving her the sustenance she needs (or most of it at least), plus her antibiotics. The rolling stand also doubles as a walker to give her some extra support when she goes for walks to help stimulate her intestines to work again. She has to have someone walk with her, but it’s only for a short circuit around the hallway before it’s back to the room to allow her to rest. She seems to get cold more easily, but she told my mom earlier that her stomach feels like a volcano. She had to write it down instead of speaking though; the tube on her lip makes it difficult for her to talk.
When we first arrived at the hospital a few hours earlier, she was sitting in the chair beside the bed, with a blanket on her lap and her life-supporting stand by her side. She stayed there throughout the visit, sitting patiently, and communicating with hand gestures and the occasional word whenever she needed something or someone directly addressed her. But it’s difficult to have a conversation with someone who can’t talk back. Mostly, the conversation was between us visitors; discussing her present condition, how draining the whole event has been for everyone, how frustrating and uncomfortable all this must be for her, etc. And she, all the while, just sat there — probably taking in every word that was spoken, and saying nothing but volumes. Volumes of sadness, joy, grief, gratitude, strength and discomfort. The look in her eyes said all there was to say. I’ve never seen more eloquent eyes.
Later, after everyone else had left, grandmother was put to bed. I offered to be her “entertainment,” but she simply motioned for me to sit down and not burden myself worrying about her. And now, here we are. She’s there in bed, asleep for the moment, and I’m here writing. Writing and thinking, about what all this must be like for her.
It’s hard for me to imagine being in this kind of place one day… not as a visitor but as a patient. I love to move. I love to dance, to sing, to talk and laugh and interact with the people I love. How would I handle being so… confined? Dependent? Helpless? Not even being able to use the restroom without someone’s help? Not being able to eat or drink anything, but having to rely on a plastic pouch hanging on a metal rack for food, and someone feeding me ice with a spoon for drink? What about needing to rest after only walking for two minutes with a walker around a short hospital hallway? What about not being able… to talk? Being forced to sit in silence while everyone around me converses in low (but not silent… definitely not silent) tones about the whole ordeal?
How would I respond, how would I live, if I were put into that kind of situation? (Perhaps when I’m put into that kind of situation.) What then?
I can only hope my eyes would be as eloquent as my grandmother’s.