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Tales from the Waiting Room

One of our hospice workers noticed that a patient had been coloring in pictures in his newspaper. Trying to be helpful, she asked him if he would like an adult coloring book. He looked at her in alarm and replied, “I’m not into porn.”

A very grumpy patient asked our social worker why she was asking him so many questions. “Well, I’m your social worker,” was all she got to reply before he said, “Why don’t you go be social somewhere else?”

At a hospice meeting we were discussing a patient who was hanging on beyond all expectations. Vital signs were almost non-existent, and all of his family members had told him good-bye and that it was okay to go. One of the nurses told a story of a patient she had had years ago in a similar state. Finally, they had discovered that the man had a grandson in prison he hadn’t seen for years. The hospice was able to get in touch with the prison chaplain, who arranged for the young man to call his grandfather. The family held the phone to the patient’s ear and the grandson talked for a bit, then told the man it was okay to go. The patient died shortly after that. As the discussion returned to our current patient, the bereavement coordinator leaned close to me and whispered, “Maybe we could get that guy in prison to call him.”

The hospice patient had not seemed inclined to say much to me the first time I visited him, so I called his daughter just to get some info on how best to minister to him as his chaplain. She was happy to hear I was trying as she was a Catholic sister. When next I saw him, I said something like, “I talked to your daughter–” “Why?!?” he asked with a distinct grumble. “Just wanted to know something about you,” I replied meekly. He looked me hard in the eye and said, “You wanna know about me, you ask me. Leave the nuns out of it!!”

[Later, I was to learn: just talk baseball. He loved that.]

The doctor asked us if any of us knew what “deep vein thrombosis” was. I quickly replied, “Yeah, I seen ’em open for Hootie and the Blowfish at Reunion Arena in Dallas.”

Nurses often forget that those of us who are not strictly medical professionals may be a little more squeamish on some details than they are. Once during an IDT meeting I was really glad I had already eaten my lunch because one of the nurses who was describing the puss a patient’s sore was oozing pointed at the pudding and said, “It looks just like that!” Following this description, I passed on dessert while it didn’t seem to phase her at all.

One of our nurses says that her rule of thumb is to “err on the side of precaution.”

 

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