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'Help! help! help! help!... now bring us some figgy pudding,’ she half bellowed, half sung from her side room. Over and over; you got used to it.
Rose had come to the gerontology ward with a urinary tract infection. It didn't take long to fix, but then her psychiatric issues took over. I was a house officer, fresh on the wards. This was my very first job.
Nobody really knew what was wrong with Rose; advanced dementia, perhaps severe depression, behavioural issues, aggression. We went around and around, while her middle-class retired life faded away. She had been a teacher. Now her husband hardly knew her and we hardly knew what was wrong.
The MDT called for specialist nursing home care, so we waited and more than a month passed. Sometimes Rose shouted. Sometimes she just lay there. Sometimes she would wait until I had crept right up next to her head to ask how she was and then let out an earth shattering roar to send me jumping into the air. She didn't answer questions, nothing went both ways. Every single interaction fell between us on the floor.
One day it was close to 5pm and I was leaving her room. 'See you tomorrow Rose', I said as I left, but then I then stopped. I had heard my name (she knew my name?) followed by two words, ‘I'm lonely’.
I could hardly believe my ears, rushing to her bedside. 'I'm sorry, would you like to talk?'. She didn't. We could read a book or the newspaper perhaps? She asked me for a crossword.
I bolted out of that room like I was looking for the crash trolley. ‘I need a crossword!’, I called, out loud, as I darted in to the activities room to rifle through the magazines.
The nurses gathered and peered through the little side-room window in awe. This was awakenings, the closest thing you get to a miracle in care of the elderly. Rose knew every answer of that crossword, I did the writing and stayed for almost two hours. We spoke like nothing strange had ever gone before us.
The next morning, I opened her door with anticipation. ‘Good morning Rose.'
But there was no reply and nothing more. She left us for a nursing home a few weeks later, whoever she was still locked back away as it had been before. I sometimes think this might be the most exhilarating and simultaneously sad memory I have of medicine. There isn't a good word in English to describe that, but perhaps it was bittersweet; the day we did the crossword.
Still, when I sit and think about what happened, I often don't believe myself.
By the Secret Doctor
Read the blog and follow @TheSecretDr on Twitter
I feel sick when the BMA try to pretend they care about us. How did these guys ever get elected from amongst us?
I expected you to say that you found her dead the following day, as a psychiatric nurse I have seen a severely demented patient lucid shortly before dying.
Dear Anonymous 'I feel sick' .....I feel bemused when people post irrelevant and pointless comments on obviously inappropriate forums. Please feel free to supply a contact route and I will be happy to explain to you the difference between the elected BMA committee and my role as a free lance writer for the BMA.
Maybe you actually mean my writing was somehow intended to display some sort of care for you? - for clarity, I would probably give you the care owed to any human being and a little bit more because we are colleagues in the same profession.... but as for this piece of writing, it had nothing to do with you whatsoever.
Thanks - The Secret Dr
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