Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The nursing care plan classified him as ‘resisitive’. Behind closed doors they referred to him as that ‘belligerent old bastard’. As the registered nurse who was often on his ward I thought of him as intelligent and misunderstood, but at least still having ‘fire in the belly’ for life.
He wouldn’t eat with the others in the dining room. He said that the ‘custard dribblers’ made him ill. He said that if he “had any desire to see someone’s half digested food he would look in the garbage not at some other old codgers tonsils”. When the nurses said his comment was rude I asked them why they didn’t eat with the patients. They were silent.
He was given the ‘appropriate’ medical treatment for ‘belligerence’, which sadly to say, was to be given more of what annoyed him. He was put in a room with a dementia patient. He had served his country in the war, loved no one but himself and just wanted to be alone. Good, bad or indifferent—I understood. He was intelligent and articulate, independent and proud.
One weekend when one of the patients departed in the usual manner of those leaving nursing homes, I decided to act. Being the RN on his ward when the administration was away gave me a little leeway that I was determined to use. I rearranged the patients so that two dementia patients shared a room and Mr Belligerent was put in a room of his own. With a mixture of waffle, medical terminology and old fashioned bravado I managed to give him the privacy and dignity that he craved. What had been done, couldn’t be undone after the weekend when the administration arrived back to work. I was quite aware of the disdain that was directed my way for my championing of the ‘belligerent old bastard’. I didn’t care.
He smoked. Although I had never put a cigarette in my mouth I was prepared to lay down my life for his right to smoke. Even the sisters who smoked doled out his cigarettes with meticulous tyranny. Cigarettes that he paid for, I might add. Two at lunchtime and two at teatime. When I was on duty I would give him several whenever he asked for them (and perhaps a few when he didn’t). He didn’t have any significant diseases related to cigarette smoking and one of the women who was not classified as ‘belligerent’ was allowed as many cigarettes as she liked even though she had advanced emphysema and went outside with an oxygen tank.
I used to sit outside with him while he smoked when I wanted to see how he was doing. He tried to take great care that no smoke came my way and I would laugh when the wind changed and he swore as smoke swirled around me.
“That bit won’t hurt me,” I said chuckling.
One day while we were catching up he look me straight in the eye.
“How did an angel like you get to be in a place like this?” he said firmly.
I shrugged. He required no answer.
I was deeply touched. Having a religious background I had often wondered about angels and how one came to ‘get one’s wings’. Right then I decided that I had been gifted wings. Who was I to question the universe if they had come from a bad man, with a bad attitude and bad habits?
I had been given my wings. I was an angel.