To read the first part of The Birth of a Bedsore, click HERE.
As Vivie and I grew closer, I learned that the woman, Barbara, who put her to bed each night was not her daughter, as I had assumed. Vivie had been this family's landlady at one time. Their little girl, Megan, thought of Vivie as her grandma. Barbara's husband also came to visit regularly.
These people were among the most faithful visitors in the building, and they weren't even related to Vivie by blood. They just loved her.
I did see Vivie with a visitor one other time. The first Christmas I worked at the nursing home, an unattractive burly biker-type guy came in with his equally unattractive wife. They were Vivie's son and daughter-in-law, and they were drunk. They brought beer along. Maybe they felt they needed it to get through the family reunion. When I stopped by Vivie's room that day to give her fresh water, it smelled like a brewery. She looked at the pair with absolute disgust; they didn't seem to notice. They had poured a cup of beer for Vivie, which she didn't touch. As soon as the pair left, I hurried to her room and asked if I should pour it out.
"Yes, y-yes, g-get rid of it," she stammered.
I did, and reported the incident to the charge nurse. She raised her eyebrows, but said nothing.
I never saw those visitors again.
After I earned my GNA license, I became responsible for the direct care of the patients; that is, my duties included keeping them clean and dry, and since I worked the night shift, turning them in bed regularly to avoid bedsores, more accurately known as decubitus ulcers. Elderly or bedridden people are prone to bedsores because they tend to spend many hours sitting or lying in the same position. The skin on which most of their weight rests gradually breaks down and opens up into a runny sore that grows deeper and deeper, sometimes going all the way to the bone in spite of treatment.
Vivie was on South Hall, so her care was usually in my jurisdiction. Now that I was no longer responsible for bringing her snacks or fresh water, I didn't see a lot of her because she didn't need much during the night. She could roll over in bed and pick up her water pitcher to get a drink if she needed one.
Occasionally Barbara would call Bernadette, a member of the activities staff, to tell her she couldn't come in that night to put Vivie to bed. Bernadette would make sure the word got out that I was needed. Vivie couldn't remember my name. She referred to me as "that girl."
"I-I want that girl to put me to bed," she'd splutter. Almost everyone knew she meant me. If I happened to be working on the second floor, someone would call for me or come down to tell me that Vivie had requested my services. I was glad to go -- glad to do what I could to make her happy.
I had already figured out that Vivie had some form of dementia, maybe Alzheimer's, since she couldn't remember names and had difficulty coming up with words. But when I started helping her change for bed, I learned she had only one breast. So I knew she had had cancer, or perhaps still had cancer. She also slept with supplemental oxygen running into her nose through a nasal cannula, so she may have had emphysema, too.
Strangely, we GNAs were given very little information about the care the patients needed. I never understood if the charge nurses felt they didn't have time to tell us about the patients, or if they thought we were too stupid to understand. I probed for information constantly. Sometimes I got answers to my questions -- sometimes not. Sometimes the nurses said they didn't know what a patient's condition was. They just followed orders for medications and passed them out.
So most of what I knew about the patients was conjecture based on long-term observance. That's why I didn't know much about Vivie's multiple illnesses.
But then she developed a problem that I saw from the moment of its inception.