To read the first part of ZELDA, please click HERE.
Now that I understood Zelda was lonely, I needed to find out more about her life.
I sought details from the charge nurses.
"Her next of kin is her son," Donna, the night supervisor, told me. "He's a pastor at a church not too far from here."
Zelda had a son who was a pastor? I had never seen him.
I asked other staff members about him. No one knew what he looked like because no one had ever seen him.
Evelyn, the charge nurse who was usually on South Hall on Saturday nights, said that two of Zelda's four daughters lived nearby. "The two agreed to take turns spending the day with her so that one of them would be with her part of every day," Evelyn said, "but only one kept her part of the bargain. The other one never comes in anymore."
I'd had contact with the daughter who kept the deal. When I was still a hospitality aide, I'd helped a GNA move Zelda from her recliner to her bed. Zelda was in isolation at the time because she had a staph infection. Because of the infection, she had diarrhea, which we accidentally got on her chair during the move. We wiped the smear of feces off the chair as best we could, but it left a stain.
"I'll watch for her daughter tomorrow," I told the GNA. "I"ll explain what happened to the chair."
I did indeed see the daughter the next day. She was very pleasant and friendly and told me how nice I looked. I thanked her and told her what had happened to the chair.
"I"ll have it cleaned," she said. "No problem."
So, this daughter was nice. She spent every other afternoon with her mom, but when her mom got angry and screamed, her daughter's words to her were "shut up." Not "You need to be quieter, Mom." Not "That's enough of that, Mama. I'll solve the problem."
No. Zelda's daughter told the family matriarch to shut up. I felt confused by the daughter's devotion to her mother, that seemed mixed with hostility. Could it be that the daughter's self-imposed devotion led to her anger? She probably didn't want to spend most of every other day with her mom. And I wouldn't be surprised if she were pretty pissed off at her sister and brother, who somehow couldn't find the time to visit their mother in the nursing home.
As I gathered information about Zelda, I continued to care for her most of the nights that I was on duty. And I continued to see her as my "problem child." I still couldn't satisfy her, and she still pushed the button on her call light every five minutes, except for the rare occasions when she she slept for an hour or two.
Then one night I was working with my good friends, Carol and Michael. As we strolled down South Hall to check on a patient, Zelda's call light lit up and buzzed.
"Stay here," Michael told Carol and me.
Michael then put a sheet over his head and slipped quietly into Zelda's room.
"Who are you?" she demanded.
"I am a ghost," Michael hissed. "Stop turning on your call light all the time. The people who work here don't have time for you."
"Get out of here," Zelda said wearily.
I'm surprised she didn't scream.
As Michael left the room, Carol and I began to giggle. When Michael joined us, we moved away from Zelda's room and practically rolled on the floor, laughing.
Yes, God help me, I laughed. I knew this woman was lonely and in pain and miserable, yet I dared to laugh. Yet another person had told Zelda that no one had time for her.
I vowed that night that if I couldn't change Zelda's behavior, I had to change my own.
More of Zelda's story coming soon, I hope.