Sunday, January 6, 2013

THOSE WHO COULD NOT SPEAK: RONNIE

The nursing home had its share of patients whose ability to speak was quite limited or even non-existent. Patients in a vegetative state usually made no sound at all. When one of these ladies moaned very early in the morning, we discovered she had a swollen ankle. An x-ray the next day revealed the bone was broken.

Ronnie had Huntington's Chorea. About every thirty minutes during the evening -- our busiest time because we needed to put the residents to bed -- he would hoist himself up and out of his bed, wobble to the doorway of his room, and in a voice as a shaky as his legs cry out, "I need to pee!"

Invariably we replied, "If you can walk to the door, then you can walk in the bathroom. Go in there and pee."

"Okay," Ronnie would mumble, and walk like a drunken sailor into the bathroom.

I never heard him say anything other than "I need to pee," with the exception of two occasions.

I almost always worked on the third floor, as did most of the nurses and the assistants. The third floor had 85 - 90 patients, and they were the more serious cases. The second floor had 15 - 20 patients, and some of them could perform quite a bit of their own care.

Thus, the second floor never had more than one nurse and rarely had more than one assistant.

At one point, I was assigned to the second floor for about three months.

When I returned to duty on the third floor, back on my South Hall, I headed to Ronnie's room to help him into his pajamas.

He looked shocked to see me. "Where the heck ya been?" he hollered.

I hugged him and explained I'd been working on the second floor. He didn't say anything else, other than his regularly scheduled need- to-pee speech.

About three months after I quit working at the nursing home because my husband and I moved to another state, I returned for a visit.

I got off the elevator on the third floor. The only person in sight was Ronnie. He sat in his special padded chair directly outside the door to his room.

I headed down South Hall, thinking I would pass him and he wouldn't know who I was, but he surprised me.

"Janie! Where ya been?" he shouted.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I told him I had moved to another state and didn't work at the nursing home anymore.

I kissed his forehead, said farewell, and sought out one of the nurses I knew. When I told her about Ronnie, she said, "I didn't think he even knew any of our names."

Sometimes patients absorbed more information than we thought they were capable of doing.

39 comments:

  1. How sweet! He even knew your name and missed you. Shows that you never really know other people as well as we think we do. ;)

    I'm glad Blogger is letting me post comments again!!

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    1. Congratulations, lovely Rita. Little things mean a lot.

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  2. Sweet story. We never know what's going on in the minds of people. You obviously made a great and lasting impression on this fellow.

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    1. I suspect he knew other names and wanted to talk, but the words wouldn't come to him anymore.

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  3. You can't underestimate the old geezers. He's probably been reading your blog for years.

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    1. Maybe he's YOU! Do you wander around yelling "I need to pee"? Maybe at The Waffle House?

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  4. Coffeypot will be one of those old farts who always has his **** out in plain site. And I'll visit regularly.

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    1. What? What will he have out in plain sight? Explain this to me, please.

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  5. I think that is so true that people can absorb more than we think sometimes; I guess that's why its important to be careful with what is said around patients so they don't get a sense people have given up on them.

    betty

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    1. We were told in class that the sense of hearing is the last to go so we should be very careful about what we said. I believe some people have reported that they could hear while they were in a coma.

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  6. Hi Janie .. I'm sure more goes on than we know.

    Great story and a good reminder ... thank you - Hilary

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  7. It just goes to show the impact you can have x

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    1. YOU have a huge impact on Jack's life and other people's lives, too.

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  8. I wonder at times what my nan thinks, she is one of those who rarely says anything and can no longer feed herself or walk and is either in bed or in a princess chair...............

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    1. She might have more on her mind than you'll ever know.

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  9. I often wonder how much poeple we thing are incapable of intelligent thinking actually have. Nursing homes sadden me.

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    1. Some people want to talk and the words just aren't there for them.

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  10. What a sweet story. It really touched my heart. It's such a mystery how the mind works, even when a person seems to be out of touch or incapable of understanding. Like the special needs children I used to work with. Every once in a while, one would show a glimmer of recognition and appreciation (dare I say joy... or love?) that was completely out of the realm of expectations, and those glimpses of lucidity could rip your heart out of your chest and give it a big kiss.

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    1. Those moments make a huge difference to workers in a tough job.

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  11. Wonderful story. So important to chat to everyone - you never know what sinks in.

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  12. Indeed they do Janie. I visited my mom every day (with few exceptions) when she was in the nursing home and I befriended a lot of those folks. They always seemed happy to see me.

    Your entry was a good one.
    R

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    1. The people who don't have visitors are especially happy when some other patient's visitor recognizes them and speaks to them.

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  13. I bet that was a real shocker! It's nice to know he knew your name, though.

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  14. When my son was a baby, we had a playgroup at the Alzheimer's home down the road. It was amazing how they could remember the old time songs, but not anything recent. How long were you working there?

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    1. I only worked there for about 18 months. I wanted to stay, but we had to move. Of all the jobs I've had, it was my favorite.

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  15. Ronnie knew you were a good person who cared about him.

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  16. Nice story! Definitely gives you something to think about.
    BTW, glad you popped by my blog yesterday when you did. Last night, Rudolph (who is having his own hard time dealing with this breakup) ranted "Anonymously" on my blog. It was awful. He was mean...breaks my heart, but at least I know the rage he was directing at me probably had nothing to really do with me (if that makes sense).

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    1. Maybe he ranted because it's part of the grieving process. If the two of you are so unhappy about breaking up, then is there any way you can work out things so you can be together again? Elvis and I nearly split during the holidays, but, miraculously, we worked it out, and I love and appreciate him more than ever.

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  17. I so love this story. I know a woman who had that... her end was sad. One of her son's has the gene... he is currently drinking himself into a coma.

    Such a sad disease.

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    1. It's definitely sad. If I knew I had that gene I'm afraid I would react the same way as that woman's son. There's no way to save yourself. Taking good care of your health won't stop it from happening. What a horrible, hard future.

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  18. One of my greatest fears in life is winding up like that. That's why I'm going to keep a tank of helium nearby when I get older. Life is only good when it's good, or at least when you're still yourself and have your dignity.

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