Smile nicely and say goodbye

Nearly fourteen years ago, my partner’s parents were traveling in Ireland when her mother suffered a stroke. They were traveling with a tour group, and MaryAlice had purchased the optional tour insurance that had been offered; this insurance eventually covered nearly all of her medical expenses and the other extra expenses. But that’s not my point, although it is a good one.

And this isn’t my point either: she ended up in a hospital room in with a dozen other women, all of whom will be there for extended periods of time, most of them warehoused because they have had strokes. That’s what happens in Ireland to stroke victims. Weeks, months, years in a hospital room, no hope, no change, no chance of a future.

I’m still not at my point, but I’m getting there. To get through the situation, two of the five daughters in this family ended up going to Ireland to help out: Sarah, who was conveniently close by, bicycling in France, and my partner, CF, who had no children (at the time). A third, Nancy, would help out from the States.

The story is long and involved and involves lots of wobbly driving on the wrong side of the road and Waterford crystal and candy stripers delivering tea at tea time and sheep getting in the way and things that might have been charming if the Irish health care system hadn’t been so alarmingly backward that MaryAlice was trapped in an iron bed whose only feature was a huge iron crank that could be ratcheted to raise her head since extra pillows did not exist, nor, it seemed, did a single aspirin, not one, not a single aspirin. Sarah took charge of Dad; CF took on the doctors.

While CF was cornering doctors all over the hospital in Waterford, Nancy was calling everyone she could find at the various embassies in Washington, demanding that her mother be released from the no-hope ward.

And finally, here is my point: if you stand in one place and scream loud enough and long enough, if you stare into the eyes of the person who thinks they know better than you do, who thinks they know the patient better than you do, sometimes that smart-ass person, that doctor, says, “Hey, it’s your dime.”

That’s why CF’s mom was flown by medevac out of the hospital in Waterford to London with a doctor straight to Heathrow. From there she flew first class direct to Vancouver, B.C., and then rode in an ambulance, siren and lights, to Anacortes, Wash., where she was living at the time. That’s where she got physical therapy, speech therapy, and an aspirin.

Which really brings me to my point. When I wanted out of that rehab unit, I needed my partner like I never had before. I needed her to advocate for me in ways I am only now starting to understand. All I knew at the time was that I could not bear to be there anymore.

Fox News All The Time is what broke me, but having an alarm pinned to me didn’t help; wearing a diaper ten times too big was insulting; having to strip naked in front of strangers to prove that I could shower by myself was mortifying; realizing that someone else was rearranging my bathroom supplies was disgusting; and sitting at a table with complete strangers wearing pajamas to eat lunch was humiliating. Especially when they drooled and told you they were going home today and you knew they couldn’t even find their way back to their own rooms.

But back to my point. I had my advocate, my partner, who asked me, “Are you sure you want to go home?” and when I told her yes, she turned on her heel and made it happen.

I needed therapy but I didn’t need hospitalization. I didn’t need nursing care. I had a nice comfortable bed at home, and a partner who had already arranged to take family leave and so could be home with me.

She made it happen. I smiled nicely at the doctors, but she made it happen.




2 thoughts on “Smile nicely and say goodbye

  1. That sounds awful. For CF’s mom *and* for you. Not everyone has an advocate. I will spare you the horror scene from that portion of this telecast but will say, very glad for you that you all got home safe and sound.

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