Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wrenching On

“… but my husband has Alzheimer’s, he’s confused at the best of times. He barely recognizes me and I visit every day!”

“Sorry ma’am, the centre is closed, the quarantine is for ten days. No visits allowed by anyone. Again, I’m sorry, there can be no exception.”

“Oh my god, he won’t even recognize me anymore!”

Now this is what I call a gut wrenching exchange.

2 weeks ago, a bout of influenza broke out at my missus’ health care centre. We’re still unsure how it got in. Probably a hapless visitor but no one can be sure. Most of the employees already had their vaccine, but as sometimes happens in this environment the virus got in anyway.

This made the local newspaper and there was a blurb on TV about it. Quarantining a long-term health-care centre is definitely news worthy.

For influenza, the standard lock-down is ten days after the last occurrence of symptoms. This means no family or friends get to visit, the staff is on high-contagion protocol, and everyone in the building is started on anti-viral medications.

This is a truly horrible time for the residents, as they are alone, sickly and some even pass away from such severe strain on their already frail systems.

It's also just as devastating to loved ones who cannot visit, as the conversation above can attest. Even for the physically healthy residents, who will pull through the infection, the collateral damage can still be severe beyond understanding.

The call for the quarantine is not taken lightly. It is a matter of process established to reduce pain and suffering and ultimately save lives. Nevertheless, as with all absolute procedures, there are always difficulties.

Enforcing quarantine is atrocious for any care-giver. Nurses, nurse’s aids, care staff, all these people’s entire reason for being there is to provide a quality of life! Yet the lesser of two evils still cuts deep into their fibre.

Not for the faint of heart, as my own was shattered when hearing this story.

The ten days came and went, without further outbreak of symptoms. Once again, management, staff and supporting crews pulled out the stops to quell the spread, at greatly reduced numbers, and at much higher than normal care levels. Some of them contracted the flu as well as were sent home as per protocol… and given the shabby state of the health-care system and limited call-out lists, they could not be replaced!

So keep in mind they have a greatly increased workload, but they pull together, going above and beyond what anyone could conscionably expect.

This allowed one nurse, of the very few, to take some time to talk to our Alzheimer’s ridden husband every day.

She used the same tone of voice she’d seen his wife use.

She would put fresh grapes in his hand the very same way his wife did, one at a time.

She held the phone receiver to his ear every day when his wife called so that he could hear his wife’s voice for a few minutes.

Heroes, all of them really... I just don’t consider this being anything less.

Oh, and yes, he did remember his wife.


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