Monday, January 14, 2013

THOSE WHO COULD NOT SPEAK: RAYMOND

"Janie," Lynn said to me, "will you please put Raymond's shoe and sock on for him? I know his feet are cold."

"Of course, " I told our director of nursing, although I knew Raymond would remove the shoe and sock from his blue foot within minutes after I put them on.

Like Vada, Raymond was developmentally disabled. He didn't walk at all. He was incontinent and didn't speak. He had no visitors, no family as far as we knew.

Our nursing home took many indigent people from the community. I was told we had a policy of not turning away anyone in need.

Raymond spent his days using his feet to move his wheelchair up and down East Hall, the hall with the most patients. Also the hall with the most difficult cases.

When a charge nurse gave us our assignments as we began our shifts, I always asked for South Hall, but said of course I would work wherever I was needed. However, I always requested that I not be alone if I had East Hall. "Those people poop sooooo much," I often said.

Plus, they were very messy poopers -- difficult to clean up. Raymond could be especially problematic. When he was in bed and had a full diaper, if we didn't find it right away, Raymond almost always "finger painted," the phrase we used to describe a patient who used his hand to remove the feces from his diaper and smear it on his bed rails and sheets and anything else within reach.

Raymond didn't finger paint because he wanted to be nasty or cause trouble. I think he played with poop because it was there.

He never fought us or tried to be difficult when we cleaned him up. Although he took off his shoes and socks, as far as I could tell it, he did it because he liked having bare feet even though his feet were very cold. He didn't even struggle during the frequent finger sticks used to monitor his diabetes.

Raymond could feed himself, but after a few bites, he would wheel himself out of the dining room. I couldn't blame him. The food seldom looked appetizing, but he needed to eat. We had orders to encourage Raymond to eat at meals, but he didn't seem to understand what we said. He never appeared to understand what we said. He didn't seem to even listen, although he wasn't deaf.

Life for Raymond seemed much like life for a hamster running on a wheel and never getting anywhere. He was in a world of his own.

My daughter, Katharine, was a high school student when I worked at the nursing home. She had an adorable dog she had adopted at the county humane society. Emma was a large Labradoodle, adorable and full of life and love. Emma was crazy about everyone. When we took her shopping with us to buy her pet food, children always wanted to pet Emma.

"Sit," we commanded, and Emma immediately sat and held very still while the children giggled and stroked her.

Emma had the kind of furry face that made people fall in love with her immediately.

Because she was so sweet and friendly, I asked Katharine to bring Emma to the nursing home to visit the residents. So many of them were lonely and had little to distract them from the daily routine.

I had no idea that Emma's interaction with Raymond would provide one of the sweetest and most touching moments in my life.

Katharine was happy to bring Emma, so I obtained permission for the visit from our administrator, a very kind person who treated her employees and patients with respect, concern, and dignity.

Katharine and I took Emma up and down the halls. Her big tail swished with joy. She wiggled with delight at meeting so many new people and receiving so much attention.

Then she passed Raymond as he paddled along on East Hall. I was surprised that he noticed her, and even more surprised when he put out his hand to pet her.

Emma stood very still and was on her best behavior, acting the same way she did when a child wanted to pet her.

Then I heard a voice, a small hoarse whisper. It was Raymond.

"Good doggie. Good doggie," he said as he touched Emma gently.

I had tears in my eyes because of the beauty of the moment, and I thanked Katharine for providing a special evening for Raymond.

I never heard Raymond's voice again. He died soon after he met Emma.

I'm still so grateful that Emma and Katharine gave Raymond a moment of happiness before he passed away.

"Good doggie." What could be better last words?

Emma

39 comments:

  1. That was simply beautiful.

    Dogs can reach people.

    Good Emma. Good girl.

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  2. What a great story I think pets are just so great for all people but more so for those like Raymond.

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    1. Pets often have an effect on people who can't be reached any other way.

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  3. Wow these stories fill me with so much emotions. Such a lovely gesture.
    www.thoughtsofpaps.com

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  4. A wonderful post. I can't wait to share it with Mrs. Chatterbox when she comes home from work.

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  5. Oh, Janie! That is so, so sweet. What is it about doggies that touches people so profoundly?

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    1. I think it's the unconditional love dogs have for us. It doesn't matter what we look like or what mistakes we've made. They're always happy to see us.

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  6. That is so sweet! Now I have to go grab a tissue. It brought a tear to my eye!

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    1. As I re-read it, I ended up with a tear or two.

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  7. Awwww. Such a sweet story. Animals have a magical way of getting people to respond to them, even the ones considered incapable of responding. Music has the same effect.

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  8. Oh, this so moved me. What a wonderful, lovely story. There is so much good out there, including you, and Raymond, and Katharine, and sweet Emma.

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  9. Awww, that's so sad/sweet. Sniffle

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    1. You young people are such suckers for a sentimental story.

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  10. How good of you to work there. My sister had the most severe form of Down's Syndrome and for the last year of her life, the person who looked after her in the home, a very wonderful place, where she lived, tried to get a goldfish for her because she was so fascinated with things that moved like that. My sister finally got approval for a goldfish for her last birthday, she died three months later. This so reminded me of her. Thank you for the good work you did, so many just forget these people, who have so very much to give.

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    1. I just wish your sister had gotten her fish sooner.

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  11. Lucky was my first furchild. A boisterous Bichon with attitude to match my own. BUT, the moment he walked into a nursing home he would go into "work mode". He walked slowly, directly, and would raise up on the sides of the beds so the bedridden could touch him.

    As soon as we exited the nursing home doors, he was once again a boisterous handful.

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  12. You know I'm a sucker for a dog story. I really hope that with my last ounce of strength I'm loving on one of our pack. Great story young one.

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  13. When my mom was near the end, I snuck her medium mutt dog in for a visit. The nurses looked the other way when I took her in. She passed away 3 years ago and I kept the dog. I can never look at Tonka without thinking what love they had for each other.

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  14. Hi Janie .. it's those special moments - how lovely that Raymond got to meet Emma before he left this life with a happy memory ..

    Thanks for sharing with us ... cheers Hilary

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  15. That was an awesome (if very sad) story, Janie. It's also somewhat frightening for me. As the parent of two autistic children I fear for their future, especially one where they're all alone and have no one. The present, I can handle. It's things like that that keep me awake at night.

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    1. I can understand your fear. Are there any cousins or other family members who can be trusted to keep an eye on your youngsters in the future?

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    2. Best I can say is we're working on it

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  16. Ive often wished Drake was not such a brute so I could take him to the nursing home. When I was very sick one time someone brought their dog in.. He was a mutt and I had such a good time just petting him. He jumped up on the bed with me. I remember they tried to make him get down but I laughed and hugged him. He lay on my feet till it was time to go. There is something special about an animal that just brings joy and health.

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    1. That dog knew he'd found a lover when he came across you.

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  17. Janie, I've not read many of your recent posts, but I'm glad I read this one: interesting and sad. Keep up the great writing.

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    1. Thanks, Peaches. It's always good to hear from you.

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  18. Yep, I could read a whole book of these stories...this one was so touching! minus the part about the poop, of course.

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  19. Just read this for the first time and wanted to say bloody marvelous

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