Monday, August 25, 2014

Fourth Monday Susan Speaks

My stepdad

By Susan C. Price

My stepdad, Lou, was dying. He had entered the Intensive Care Unit one day ago. His assigned nurse, Gene, was short, red-headed, and male. Dad and Gene appreciated each other’s sense of humor and for some reason, Gene had indicated he was gay. Lou had no problem with this. ( I was relieved. Dad’s supervision of African American’s in the war had left him uncharacteristically prejudiced.)
    The next day all of the family arrived for the day at the ICU. We buzzed the nurse’s intercom to ask if we could enter. Gene said dad was doing “his personal business” and we should wait outside. A moment later, Gene beckoned us into Dad’s ICU section. A small glass beaker of dark brown fluid sat on the “dutch door” shelf of Lou’s section. We wondered aloud what bodily fluid it held. Without a word, Gene picked the beaker up and drank it. “My Coke,” he said, grinning.
    Later that day, a doctor explained to us that Lou had a “freight train” of a leukemia. It would kill him in 3 days. The doctor admitted they had developed a chemical cocktail they could inject via a stent inserted into a hole in Lou’s chest. The cocktail might cure the leukemia...but would give Lou heart disease. One thing he did NOT have.
    The doctor explained the chemical cocktail option and its risks to Lou. Dad chirped, “Ok, I’d like the cocktail.”
    I guess, when you are told you are dying, any last chance seems like a good idea.
    Nurse Gene, wearing his usual crisp, light-green scrubs, strode in and said “I am going to prep you for the stent insertion. This might hurt a LOT!
    Lou was sitting up in a motorized hospital bed in his section of the ICU. His section was separated from the other sections by heavy grey plastic curtains.
    The floor was a fading patterned linoleum. I noticed a small dark brown button lying on the floor in the corner. I wondered who had lost it, and why the floor had not been cleaned.
    It was brilliant late fall sun outside, but the ICU had no windows. The too-bright fluorescent lighting hissed, but I still remember it as dim. The smells were all hospital...indecipherable, and unpleasant. The only other sounds were from the TV in the empty ICU section next to Lou’s, a Saturday afternoon re-run of The Addams Family.
    My stepbrother and I were in there with Dad, our clothes the same rumpled ones we had worn all the day before. We were concerned that dad was too out of it to understand the risks of this treatment option.
    Lou giggled and said to Nurse Gene, “That’s why I like you, you are STRAIGHT with me.”

Copyright © 2014 by Susan C. Price


  1. Susan gets it straight about her stepdad. Right on. [Thank you, Susan!]

  2. I'm guessing the cocktail didn't work. It is hard to be on the death watch.
    The number of times I've waited for a love one to pass it seems I go through the same emotions. I don't want them to lay in pain, but to pass on with ease. Yet, I wait for the doctor to walk in and say it was all a mistake he/she can go home. But none of my people have past the easy way. The pain drugs allow them some comfort but I wonder if it doesn't prolong the pain of waiting. I guess by the time we find out it will be to late to pass it on. Sorry for your lost, Susan.

  3. thanks Ed, this was a long time ago. lou was a very nice guy. His kidneys failed before the chemical could begin. Mostly, these paragraphs were an exercise from my writing seminar in "extending psychological time" by including lots of description stuff.