By The Blocked Dwarf
I need to start this post with a slight, albeit it through gritted teeth, apology towards the ‘Hospice-from-Hell’. Every time I have visited the Landlady in the Priscilla Bacon Lodge Norwich Hospice I have wondered why it was so markedly different than the ones that Carol42, and others, have described to me on several occasions. I have wondered why there was an atmosphere of ‘clinical distance’ not one of ‘making your last days as pleasant as possible, dear’…put simply I missed ‘the love’. This morning Miss Rabid Raccoon (her lips were full of dry white froth from the melt-in-your-mouth painkilling tablet or the Hydrophobia, (this is Norfolk so take your pick) informed me that whilst it may still say ‘hospice’ on the tin, it is in fact now a 16 bed ‘Centre Of Excellence For Pain Management’ and she is lucky to have gotten one of those 16 beds. The point of the place isn’t to go there to die but for the doctors to tweak your pain meds to allow you to go home again to die. “Centre Of Excellence” being a peculiarly British euphemism for a public institution that despite mismanagement by people with degrees in Health Care Management; despite being run on a frayed shoestring; despite chronic underfunding and lack of cleaning still somehow manages to produce , sometimes, ‘not bad’ results. We have Centres Of Excellence for all sorts of things…which tells you all you need to know about how limbo-dancingly low the bar for ‘excellence’ gets set here. All which doesn’t excuse the sort of spiteful idiosyncrasy I witnessed this very morning.
As I have mentioned before The Centre For Excellence have forbidden Madame her vape (whether or not she obeys that verbot I will leave you to guess)-for the sake of her health (‘health’ isn’t a word that really juxtaposes well with someone who now has more tumours than the doctors can be bothered to count, well into double figures, does it?) because it “hasn’t been proven not to be harmful”. Which of course is just an alibi for the sort of spiteful, nasty, small minded and puritanical thinking that would have had Cromwell thinking ‘steady on’. But that aside, I was sitting at her bed side when they brought round some of her medication. A large syringe, what Grandma Dwarf would have called a ‘horse syringe’ full of liquid Oxycodone (street value £lots). Which the Landlady has to squirt into her mouth. Blow Job anaesthesia. Oxycodone is one of the strongest painkillers known to medical science and like all really good painkillers it has one serious side effect, namely, ‘death’. It kills you. Before it does however ‘do’ for you it does about as much harm as drinking a couple of bottles of scotch a day. I’m not up on my pharmacology but I reckon if the Landlady continues to take the drugs she’s currently taking , in the same or greater doses, there is a good chance that they will finish her before the cancer does and probably by Xmas. Yet I’m pretty sure she could vape all day, everyday until Xmas and not suffer any harm from it.
But wait, there’s more. Just after they had brought round her meds, the drinks trolley came round! I kid you not. Once a day a trolley, a mobile bar, comes round the ward dispensing ethanolic goodness to the dying for free. Madame only had a pineapple juice but they would have mixed her a G&T in a feeder cup if she’d so desired…with ice. Because ‘Jim Beam-it’s what makes morphine work!’. For those who didn’t have the privilege of going to the sort of student parties I did, I should explain that mixing alcohol with any narcotic is a REALLY BAD IDEA. Forget not mixing the grape and the grain; you keep the poppy well well away from both if you have any sense. Don’t get me wrong; I am NOT saying the dying or those in great pain shouldn’t have a drink-hell if I were running the place it wouldn’t be water in those bedside jugs and there’d be a fresh carton of B&H in every bedside cabinet. Opium pipe and a bag of crisps to take the edge off, dear, or would you rather have a pan-galatic gargle blaster? Your reach a certain point in your journey towards that Bright Light at the End Of The Tunnel when even genuine health concerns become totally and utterly irrelevant. If it makes you feel better then that’s all that matters and all that should matter to your ‘carers’.
Alright you’ve waited patiently, so I’ll explain the photo and title of this piece.Actually no, I won’t explain the photo- even if you’ve never watched an episode of Casualty and have never partied with Med Students (don’t do that by the way) one glance at the scan photo should tell you that Anna’s spine is what doctors refer to as ‘oh dear, not good’. Even without the BIG RED ARROW I put on it; even without being able to identify what is bone, what is muscle and what is nerves you can see that there is something amiss. If not, go to Specsavers.
The Raccoon explained it thus: her doctors and carers have been puzzled why hoisting her onto the commode had been causing her ‘some discomfort’ (doctor speak for ‘PAIN’). The MRI shows that something has dissolved the ‘knobbly bits’ (doctor speak for, I assume, ‘transverse process’ and ‘arches’) of her verterbrae (T1/T2 I think but I still count on my fingers). Those boney knobbly bits protect the spinal chord which now lies open. Do I need to tell anyone that exposed spinal chord is not a good thing? Long and short the doctors are now puzzled how she has managed to live so long with being turned, manhandled and hoisted daily.
The slightest movement of her body below the shoulders could kill her.
So at the moment they are giving her doses of an anaesthetic to paralyse her in her sleep at night so she doesn’t toss and turn and wake up dead. She can’t be hoisted on to the commode, nor even have a bed pan shoved under her and so:
“I literally have to crap in the bed” [sic]
Don’t forget she is still perfectly lucid, her head is clear and so she can fully enjoy the utter loss of every last scrap of dignity every single time the team of nurses have to come and roll her onto her side, keeping her in position, then clean her down. Of course the fact that the meds and the drugs haven’t destroyed her mind is a good thing but….
Worse still the exposed spinal chord also means she probably won’t be going home anytime too soon, which she desperately wants to do.
And today G had to bring in the right tools to cut her wedding ring off her finger. The steroids have caused her fingers to swell. Yes it is only a piece of metal,’rose gold’ actually, but that bit of metal means something to her and G, they’re a bit old fashioned.
I had been intending to end this post on that note of pathos. It affected me almost more than the news that she’d given her spine an airing. But then this afternoon I got an email from her asking me to add the gif below to this post. Watch it, laugh, maybe even delight in it as she did. Yes Jonathan, she still has her sense of humour.
unmute this pic.twitter.com/23ouSWPO97
— 🍸 (@oscarewilde) July 27, 2017