Friday, October 26, 2007

Scary Phone Calls

In the middle of my hospital shift yesterday, the charge nurse waved at me from the nursing station and said, "Susan, phone home."

"This can't be good," I said, my stomach dropping.

"Why not?"

"Because my mother's in the hospital."

But when I called Gary, the first thing he said was, "It's not your Mom." Then he said, "It's your cousin Scott."

Scott, his wife and two daughters live in San Diego. Scott's always been very generous to me, but it's been a couple of years since I've spoken to them. I've been thinking about them this week because of the fires, and I'd thought about trying to call, except that the number I have for them never seems to work. But it turned out that wasn't the problem.

Scott, who's 55 or 56 -- Gary and my sister's age -- is in an ICU (in a hospital that may have to be evacuated because of the fires), in liver failure from several chronic medical conditions, very likely dying. I talked to Scott's sister, my cousin Val, in Massachusetts, who said he was unconscious and who was trying to decide when to fly out. Val gave me his wife's cell number. I spoke briefly to his wife and offered to fly down if I can be any help at all (I'm at least out West, whereas everybody else from our side of the family is back East), but she said there's nothing I can do, and that she's getting a lot of support from her family. She sounded stunned and angry and lost, which was hardly a surprise.

I'll fly down for the funeral, if it comes to that.

Meanwhile, today I talked to my mother in the skilled-nursing facility. My sister had reported positively on the place, but my mother's not happy at all -- she said she has some issues with the professionalism of the staff -- and her physical therapy won't start until Monday. She sounded more scattered and out of it than she has in a few days, so that was alarming, too. My sister was there when I called, and she sounded very stressed when I talked to her for a few minutes.

So I'm just a little freaked out, in through here.

I finished the second half of my shift yesterday in a daze, which wasn't helped by the fact that traffic was slow (my patient tally was about half what it usually is). I talked a little about my cousin's condition to one of the nurses, who listened sympathetically, grimaced, and said, "Liver's a bad way to go." Then she put her arm around me and said, with a half-laugh, "Do you need to talk to somebody? Should I call a chaplain for you?"

I laughed. "No, that's okay. You just did for me what I do for patients. See, you can do my job!"

She shook her head. "No, thanks!" But she was a genuine help to me, and I was glad she was there.


  1. Well, crap and double crap. I am so sorry about Scott; I hope the ones who need to be there, can get there soon. What a loss. Sounds like your Mom and sister are frustrated too--who wouldn't be? And you're stuck away from both situations. I am holding all in my prayers.

  2. Anonymous1:08 AM

    ditto what terri c said! And in the meantime, I hope you can take good care of yourself, and let some people take care of you. Breathe in, breathe out, do the best you can with whatever you have to do, and just generally hang in there until you and those you love see what is best to do next,


  3. Anonymous1:11 AM

    ditto what terri c said! And in the meantime, I hope you can take care of yourself, and let some others take care of you. Breathe in, breathe out, do the best you can with whatever you have to do now, and just generally hang in there until it becomes clear to you and those you love what is best to do next,

    thinking of you,



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