Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Last Days of Louise Walker part 2

Ken refused to believe Louise was dying and said he was praying for a miracle. The doctor tried to console him, “you’re right Ken miracles happen every day," he said, "but Louise right now is in grave condition.” Kelly and I described Louise’s long history of mental illness, a condition Ken refused to talk about and asked if she could at least have her psychotherapeutic drugs restored to lessen her misery. The doctor explained Louise had perilously low sodium levels and psychotherapeutics impeded sodium absorption, but he would consult with Louise’s psychiatrist and see what he could do.

At this point Kelly left the hospital and Ken I took over watching Louise. We talked quietly at her bedside despite interference from a sadly demented former nurse in the next bed who shouted orders to all the people in the room. Louise was now being infused with both sodium and antibiotics and because her lungs were filling with water she was taking oxygen and some kind of puffer medication through a mask. At the nurse's urging I fed Louise some pretty good tasting raspberry flavoured gel and custard. Louise seemed calm, but was in some pain. I had the impression she had discomfort in her stomach or bowel.

Kelly returned at 3 pm to pick up Ken and I spent the night with Louise. She didn’t really say much that I could understand. I just kissed her and stroked her face and held her hand.

Because at that point nothing was determined about Louise’s actual condition the very excellent staff of New Infirmary 8.2 were wary of letting family members spend the night in the ward. So after visiting hours ended at 8 pm, with Louise asleep, I went to the TV room and made a rum and Pepsi, from one of four airplane shots I bought at the Atlantic Super Store Liquor Commission on the way in from the airport.

Every half hour or so I went to the ward and looked in on Louise who was still sleeping. Three rum and Pepsi’s later. A nurse came in and said Louise was shouting for me. I went in and comforted her despite the objections of the Alzheimer’s nurse, who told me to, “shut up!” I kissed Louise and held her hand and she seemed to fall asleep. I was hoping she would die and that would be the end of it.

Morning came and the ghastly routine of drawing blood from Louise’s blackened arms resumed. I went down for coffee while she was being washed. It was a beautiful spring morning. Ken came in later and we sat with Louise until Simone arrived with Kelly. We gathered for another meeting with the doctor who confirmed Louise had cancer, but held out some of hope and said that he would put her back on one of her psychotherapeutics. Louise passed her last night alive with her first child, Simone, who sat with her until dawn.

Next morning the family assembled in the 8.2 conference room with both Louise’s doctor and case nurse. The doctor said that Louise was dying and had perhaps days or weeks to live. We had expected this and asked the case nurse to insure Louise wouldn’t suffer any anxiety in her last days. The nurse assured us that Louise would be made comfortable and described how she would die. She also said Louise would be moved to a private room where we could stay with her and offered us every assistance. Louise was immediately moved to a nearby private room with lots of sun. Simone, Kelly and Gerard all left to prepare for their shifts, while Ken and I settled in for the long wait.

Ken and I had been chatting for a while when the dietary person delivered Louise’s lunch. He suggested we should try some of it. I ate a little of the raspberry gel, which prompted Ken, who perhaps was a little disorientated to ask who was going to feed Louise and wondered why she didn't have an IV attached. I told Louise, who was not apparently conscious that Ken and I were just going out for a moment. I took Ken to the family room and told him directly that Louise was dying and there would be no more feedings or IV’s. Despite this Ken refused to believe this was the end.

Soon after we got back to Louise’s room. My aunt and uncle, Corrine and Paul Wallace arrived. We were very happy to see them. I knew Louise would love a visit from her most confidential sister. We all chatted for a while then Corrine spoke to Louise in French. I didn’t catch it all but she mentioned Louise’s parents and late brothers and sisters. Louise showed no sign of hearing Corrine’s words, but I am certain she heard. Corrine and I then chatted for a while. As we talked, Louise sighed quietly and died. Only two hours after being moved.

Corrine was the first to notice. I went out and asked a nurse to come in and have a look. The nurse confirmed it and said she’d call a doctor to come in and pronounce. While this was happening Louise’s sister Yvonne and her husband Leonard Martell came into the room quiet unaware of what was going on. After greeting them with the news I went out and called Simone and Kelly. Simone cried out, when I told her, but was greatly comforted that Corrine was in the room with Ken and I when Louise died. I asked Kelly to find Gerard and tell him.

Back in Louise’s room a woman doctor came in and did some small tests and pronounced her dead. She asked Ken if he wanted an autopsy. Ken was emphatic he didn't want one.

Curiously, one of the nurses, a person you would suppose accustomed to such scenes, seemed moved by the event and came in to offer condolences. She wiped tears from her eyes as she spoke. Perhaps she empathized with Louise’s struggle. She told us not to worry that they would call the funeral home and take care of everything.

Within 30 minutes Kelly, her husband Brian and son Ryan arrived, then Simone and Gerard, so the room was very full and we took turns saying our good byes. Yvonne and Leonard went back to the lodge to get Louise’s nail polish and as a final gesture Yvonne painted Louise’s nails before we all went away. Kelly and I were the last ones out. We all then went back to Cook Avenue for an impromptu gathering.


No comments:

Post a Comment