Strength & Understanding

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A phone call from an employee at the nursing home where my elderly sister resides informed me that they’ve put my sister on “alert status”. Her blood pressure had registered only 68 over 30-something. I tossed on a jacket and rushed there, entering my sister’s room to find her dozing lightly. She woke and weakly greeted me.

As I settled into her wheelchair, she asked, “What’s on your mind?”

“I’m worried about you.”

She thought a moment before shaking her head, “Don’t start counting me out.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. Nobody ever counts you out.”

She nodded weakly and dozed off.

Our intermittent sentence-exchanges continued between her dozes and awakenings. In her non-alert moments, I tried to watch a football game on her television. She noticed this and reinforced my sense that she’d not been the one who tuned to that game by suddenly saying, “I don’t like college football.” When I asked why, she lacked the strength to verbalize an adequate response.

That’s when two nurses entered, one from the home and another from Hospice. The Hospice nurse checked my sister’s vitals. His reading of her blood pressure was 120/69, which is normal for her. When he said his BP cuff was new, the facility nurse decided that the facility’s BP machine was off and needed fixing. The Hospice nurse noted that my sister’s complexion and lips weren’t bluish, that her hands were warm but her toes slightly cold, perhaps because of slow circulation.

My sister’s condition was decent!

I’d been over-warned, but it felt important to be there. My sister said she felt well, was without pain and comfortable. The facility nurse commented that they’d earlier administered codeine for my sister’s pain. Now, I know for a fact that my sister rarely agrees to consume anything except her known daily five pills. I wondered how they had managed to encourage her to accept codeine and the nurse said, “In chocolate.”

After the nurses left, I sat watching my sister doze. She looked much like our mother at around the same age. Even her spoken words reminded me of Mom’s old age sounds and tones.

My sister’s admonishment, “Don’t count me out,” rings in my head. I recognize that she might recover, as has happened before when the odds seemed against her. But what’s also ringing is a “cautious maybe” that this time she won’t. I returned home reassured that for this moment she’s okay. Today, I’ll visit again.

Dear Friends: I’ve nixed old mixed feelings about a cherished and complex sister. Diana

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