Tribute to a Patient

As usual I will protect patient confidentiality with anonymity. I found out today that a former patient I used to care for in the community, Mrs M, has passed away. She spent most of her life in a wheelchair having developed Multiple Sclerosis early on, even swallowing became difficult and she required Gabapentin among her large list of prescriptions. On top of that she had another undisclosed terminal illness diagnosed the Spring before her death.

The only control she had left over her life was through directing others, the Carers (which was my former role). There was no two ways of doing things, she ensured things were done just so, and was frustrated when they weren’t. But this frustration was not really at us, it was at her condition, at the debilitation that prevented her from doing anything, and we all admired what a strong woman she was. She never complained about the hand she was dealt in life, she never broke down or shied away in sadness. Perhaps behind closed doors when the radio was her only company.

I remember the day room, we would leave the door open so she could maneuver her electric wheelchair into the room, where the daylight flooded onto the pristine shelves through vast window. I remember the precise way tea was stored in the kitchen, Earl Grey in the Tea can, Tetleys or regular tea in the Coffee container, and we laughed once when she expected me to know without her ever saying, as if it were the most logical and natural thing to assume. Her strictly disciplined routine meant waking the same time every day, eating her meals precisely on time and rotating the types of food never changing or going for anything new. She enjoyed feeling clean, dignified, lady like, so we showered and scrubbed her just right, applied a precise amount of perfume afterwards, combed her short grey hair until she was spruced and refreshed to face the day even if it didn’t mean leaving the house whatsoever.

I was not one of her main carers, I would see her once a week, sometimes fortnightly, but I will always remember that she was the first client, patient, care receiver, I saw during my first week of training over a year ago. I feel sad that her life was so limited, and her pain so great that she had to be physically tied into bed to stop the muscular spasms, her twisted body never holding back her fiercely intelligent mind. As much as her condition took from her it never took her dignity, grace and womanly strength.

She had the best possible care, and her main carers who saw her thrice daily were also her dear friends, so for them in particular as well as Mrs M herself I pay my respects.

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