Monday, May 31, 2010

Pants has a job

Well, it is not a paid job. If all goes well, she will be recording newspaper articles for the visually impaired.

The late Dame M (check the cast list if you are a newer reader) was rather visually impaired. She owned about three dozen pairs of glasses and she had two very bright reading lamps sitting on her kitchen table. She was a reader and found not being able to read quite distressing. I forget who, but one of us connected her to the Blind Institute Vision Australia for help. Not much could be done but she was supplied with a audio machine to read her books out loud.

As she lay dying in her bed for the last couple of months, audio books would arrive from Vision Australia and although she was well educated and well read, she exclaimed to me one day about how much she was learning. As she would not seek medical help, we did not know she was dying except I do now recall that she told me she was. I just said something like, don't be silly. If there is a chance I can bury my head in sand, I always do. I recall the late Leonard Teale and Bud Tingwell both recorded books and I expect they weren't paid for this. If I am dying, can someone supply me with podcasts please? Anyway, the talking books were a great comfort to her in her final months, so good on Pants for doing this.

This was only going to be about recordings for the blind, but now I am remembering back to when Dame M died. When she said she was dying and I told her not to be silly, I was very very wrong. I did everyone a disservice because none of us knew what was happening. I it erased from my short term memory. She was clearly very unwell, yet she would not see a doctor in spite of everyone trying to get her to see one.

What I should have done after informing others, was say, ok, you clearly want to spend your last days at home. We will help and do what we can for you. Once she was in tears by our constant pressure to seek medical help. She knew medical help was futile. I have no idea why she told me, someone who buries their head in the sand, she was dying, and not someone a little more sensible.

I don't actually know what she died from. Lung cancer? When I and her boarder admitted her to hospital, that is when she could still stand and yet two days later she died after all her family had visited her, the nurse at reception put a peg like thing on her finger or thumb and then said, oh, you've slipped through the cracks my dear. Jayne or Cazzie, what would that peg like thing be? Just pulse? Surely you can't measure oxygen in the blood with something like that?


  1. Don't feel guilty, Andrew, you reacted exactly as she wanted which enabled her to stay at home as long as possible.
    Yes, they measure heart rate and O2 sats (oxygen saturation rate) via that little peg which is a pulse oximeter.
    And yay for Pants, I've been getting a few talking books and the husky-voiced ones are the best to listen to ;)

  2. Just what Jayne said.. pulse oximeter it was. An amazing invention. I thought about many of the things we use today to obtain observations on patients. Things that we did not have the luxury of using when I first trained.
    Mercury thermometres that were easily broken and dangerous, changed to tympanic thermometres or electronic thermometres that can take the temperature from the axilla (arm pit). "Dipsticks" for us to test urine of a patient and get an idea of what is going on within a person prior to the sample even going to the lab, most excellent in the prompt treatment of urine infection.
    Those pulse oximetres are great too. Years ago we would just observe a patient's breath rate and note cyanosed or non cyanosed lips/extremeties etc and adjust the oxygen delivered thus. They are an imperative instrument when I work in ICU or HDU because, for instance, a person who has a brain injury and is becoming cyanosed must be treated promptly with the correct amount of 02 therapy..and this allows us that measure.
    Lots more to think of but that would almost be a complete new post :)
    Re the talking books for visually impaired. My best friend who passed away from tumors of the brain at age 42 had lost her sight along with the disease process. A very intelligent person she was, and she so loved reading as I do. I got her The DaVinci Code in talking book mode and quite a few other literary things in talking book mode.. she loved them dearly. I would also sit and read books to her and read the newspaper or letters from her daughter who lived overseas at the time.
    Andrew, I feel your pain. Please know this. You have portrayed Dame M as quite an enigma...she told you these things because she did know what was going on within herself. She told you because you had to have been the closest person to her, someone not to judge. I remember telling my Nan she was silly too, that she would live alot longer than she did. I too was wrong. Maybe they wanted to hear us say that because it is a measure of our love and caring of them. I miss my Nan dearly every single day too.
    These strong ladies are people not to be forgotten, and so please don't upset yourself. Their last days may not have been as comforting, or painless if they had had medical intervention. Sometimes medical intervention creates a longer suffering and these women would know of this only too well. These ladies left this World in a blink of an eye. Hard to swallow for us being their closest left behind.

  3. Jayne and Cassie have really said it all here, and just beautifully too. Andrew, I would simply say Dame M was a lucky lady to have a chance to say good-bye, surrounded by her loved ones, and it seems she chose her own time. I don't think that you need to reproach yourself because you and your friends acted out of care and love.

  4. Ok, thanks Jayne. I won't have to ask Bone Doctor now.

    The marvels of modern medicine Cazzie. I have been hearing that for a long long time, and it just gets more marvellous. I don't understand how the oximeter can work without piercing skin, but I don't need to know, so long as it works. Thanks for the rest of your comment. I am just a bit annoyed because had we have known, it would be easier for everyone.

    They did indeed LiD. She was very fortunate to have so many younger friend. She liked younger people. She did not have much time for straight men though. In fact she banned them from her house at one time after she had had tradie problems.

  5. Anonymous5:58 pm

    Go Pants! I used to read for Vision Australia's (now defunct) Newsline service then did a 3 year stint on their radio station. They provide a brilliant service - not just for the vision impaired, but for a lot of lonely people too.

    Andrew, I think, like the others have said, Dame M knew she wasn't much longer for the world and chose how to spend the time she had left. I doubt that your response is an uncommon one - quite often we react like that because we can't imagine them not being around.

  6. You are a talented soul MD. I had no idea you have broadcasting skills too. Been a couple of years now MD, since she died. Still miss her.

  7. Dame M, like all intelligent people, knew that a hospital is no place for a sick person. there's no peace and quiet.

    Pants is indeed, Our Lady Of The Good Works.

  8. Is Pants really that altruistic Ann?

  9. one wouldn't think so if judging by her imperious look in her gravatar photo, but I've seen her and she is a softie.

  10. I'll continue to judge her by her avatar. I like her like that.