She’s 91 years young, she drives a Mustang convertible with an epic sound system, she cooks, cleans, goes to the beauty parlour every week, and keeps her nails a beautiful deep red. She’s hell on wheels, this patient of mine. This morning her husband wakes up at 4am and finds her “different”. He waits until 7:45am to bring her to the ER. Too much time has passed for any life-saving clot buster agents to reverse the massive ischemic stroke she has suffered. So, we hang an IV drip for her sky-high blood pressure and give palliative care otherwise. Family members sit at her bedside, willing her to come back from the brink of death, to start moving all her limbs, to open her eyes and talk to them, to take a sip of water to relieve her dry mouth. Instead, she thrashes restlessly in bed, not responding to any questions, never opening her eyes, occasionally mumbling “help me”. She has lost the use of the right side of her body, although she does not appear aware of this. We tell the family as kindly as possible to expect the worst, but that only God knows what lies ahead for her.
Life has a way of kicking you in the seat of your pants. Strokes are one of the final ways it does so for the elderly. It’s particularly unkind–robbing you of quality of life, and then of life itself. As for my little powerhouse of a patient, her days of driving her Mustang convertible are over. Her red nail polish is already removed so we can get accurate oxygen readings. She has cooked her last meal for her sweet husband, and the cleaning will be done by someone else hereafter. She now resides in that realm somewhere between this world and the next while her family looks on with sorrow.
Remember this when you consider whether you have time to visit a loved one this weekend. Go to them, enjoy time with them, hug them and tell them you love them. Teach your children to do the same, so someday they will come visit you. Life is fleeting, live it well.
Nurse Ames RN