Friday, May 16, 2008

Never alone

There's something about being sick that just sucks.

I awoke at 1 a.m. Thursday with a horrible stomachache. Nausea forced me down the stairs and into the bathroom, and my electrolytes dropped so quickly in a relatively short period that I started to black out.

My husband takes Ambien for sleep. Waking him up for help wasn't an option. My daughters are also very heavy sleepers. They could sleep through a freight train rolling through their yard and not be fazed. So, there I was in the bathroom, blacking out, feeling as if I was about to die -- alone. I hit my head on the bathroom counter on the way to the floor, but managed to catch myself before too much damage had been done. I knew, then, my Thursday would be ruined.

When my family crawled out of bed later that morning, I told them I was going to have each of them fitted with a remote electroshock button to wake them if this ever happened again.

It's frightening to be so sick and all alone. It's strange what starts running through your head, and it sparked sorrow in my heart for the people who are sick, elderly and die with no one at their side.

I started working at the paper as an obit writer many, many years ago, and yesterday started me thinking about a couple of the obits I had written about residents of our area who died alone.

Vividly, I remember one funeral director telling me about walking into a 3-story apartment building and immediately being able to smell the decomp. Apparently, a man who had no one to care for him died three weeks earlier and no one noticed until his rent came due. Another was an elderly gentleman who lived by himself on his farm. His wife had passed on and his children lived far away. He lay dead for 12 days before neighbors finally called the police because they hadn't noticed any activity for several days.

I'm saddened by stories like these, and they happen all too often.

My cousin, who is a registered nurse for hospice, said many people who are near death are visited by loved ones who have passed on before them. It helps the transition to death an easier one to bear, she said. For the sake of all these people who died with no one around them, I hope that's true. It's comforting to know that no matter how alone I am, someone will be there.

But if I ever see my grandfather while I'm worshipping the porcelain god, I'm pretty sure I'll scream loud enough to wake my family from their sleep.

No comments: