Door closed, curtain pulled, light off. When I finally got through to the bed it looked more like a shroud than a patient. A crisp white sheet stretched from the patient’s head to toes. The only noise and movement in the room came from the IV pump, the alarm sounded and the LCD flashed “occlusion” on the panel. Actually, the bag of IV fluids had finished running. I made as much noise as possible pushing back the curtain and I turned on the light and then stood at the bedside letting the alarm sound. I stood a full minute before the sheet spoke, “are you going to turn that damn thing off?” “I’m sorry, I’m not a nurse; I’m a physical therapist are you going to walk with me?”
Reality is that which we can’t make go away. It’s like the bumper sticker said “Froto lost, and Bush has the ring” many of us have a strong urge to leave our current state of affairs. And we do try: drugs, wine, curtains, luxury vehicles, cruises, casinos, blankets, TV, escaping has become such a big part of our lives that many have forgotten what we are running from. A year of violence and failure for Oakland, our children our dying, what could be worse.
This year hundreds of parents, grandparents, girlfriends, boyfriends and siblings spent their days at Highland at the bedside, pulling back the sheet, bringing in food, helping the patient get washed up and to the bathroom and home. Caregiving is a “no glamour no glory,” type of a job; it is also what holds a community together and makes Oakland a wonderful place to live. Politicians hate hospitals they don’t understand illness, adversity or how strong or brave people are. Families and parents don’t have the luxury of wallowing in their losses, Highland’s families spent the year fighting to keep us here, to keep us well and to keep us together.