Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm a Hospice Vigil Volunteer, for real.

I survived! Un/fortunately, so did my patient. I had my first vigil shift the other night in a hospital room, with a (too young) woman who is dying of cancer. I was there for four hours overnight, watching really bad info-mercials while she slept, and at other times, trying to will her back to sleep like a mother of a newborn baby. She was agitated, which is something that happens sometimes, and kept making moves to take her blanket off and get up. She couldn't have gotten up, and ultimately was doing tiny, confused crunches for an hour- I wanted her to relax, to give in, to let go, to stop trying so hard. She is not verbal, so all I could do was kind of coo to her- I found myself (rather than coming out with "you can go now!") saying "you're doing a great job." I don't know if this is a helpful thing to say to a dying person, but it seemed like the best I could really come up with. I wanted her to know she didn't have to worry about anything, she was doing (as they say in Hospice) the "hard work of dying" and that's all she had to do. That and sleeeeeeeep.
I know the idea of these vigils is to be there when people are dying, and when they die, but she was just going on living, and didn't die while I was there, but it still felt like good work to be doing. In fact, I couldn't help but think that every patient should have someone sitting in with them. A patient across the hall, who had a hard time speaking, kept yelling out to the nurses and hitting his call button. He could really only yell out a syllable at a time, and they couldn't figure out what he wanted. As the night went on I could tell that they were answering his bell less quickly- and sometimes only over the intercom (he couldn't talk!). Finally a staffer went in and figured out that he was cold. He needed his blankets pulled up. It was one of the saddest things I've ever witnessed. I imagined my parents in hospital beds, trying to be understood- and I imagined myself, alone and cold and... alone. My patient's nurse wouldn't have known that my patient was agitated if I'd not been there to tell them, really, and my patient would have been all by herself, doing useless crunches on her way to nowhere.
I'm going back tonight, and will pray like I did the other night for mercy for my patient. Mercy as in "please God, just give this person a BREAK!!" I have my phone charged and my book ready and am hoping she'll just be in a deep deep sleep all night as I count the seconds between her breaths. I know she'll go when she's ready- and if she's ready when I'm there, I'll be glad for her to finally get some real rest.
UPDATE: We both made it through the night again, but my patient passed away early this morning. She seemed much more comfortable last night, and slept almost the whole time. The nursing staff was different tonight and so sweet. I watched them give her medicine and touch her face, check her body for what I knew were signs of impending death. They spoke to her so sweetly and respectfully, even though she was basically unconscious. They seemed so much more caring and sympathetic.
And about that man across the hall. He was still yelling, but this time I could see him a little better as the chairs in my patient's office had been moved.  Turns out, he's kind of awful- yelling AT the nurses, grabbing at them, and throwing things at them. True, he did not seem to be "all there" so maybe in his daily life he's a charmer, but not in the hospital. Still, the other difference last night was that the nurses were attentive and patient with him, even when he was grabbing their gloves and refusing to let go. One nurse sat outside his room to do her work so she could keep an ear and eye on him, and even called him "sweetie" at one point. Sweet, he was not. But she was! Overall, my faith in hospitals was greatly improved.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pinterest Hits and Misses

Friday? What? Oh. Well, I call the holiday weekend rule. 
Anyway, here are seven things I've tried from Pinterest, to varying degrees of success. Oh, and they're low-carb.
1) Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Well, it was okay, but I think my oven is uneven and so some parts were fine and crust-like-ish, and others were like... well... cauliflower. I'd try it again, except that I have better things to do with my cauliflower. And if I were to do it again, I'd make smaller ones instead of one big unevenly cooked one.
2) Baked Avocado Eggs
So, in theory, these should be great, right? But the first thing that happened was that most of the egg blobbed out onto the baking sheet, and that made my first words of the day be swears. Apparently you really have to scoop out quite a big to make room for an actual egg in there. So, all I ended up with was a yolk and a bit of white. It wasn't awful, but it was disappointing.
3) Zucchini Chips
Here's what I was picturing. I was picturing... well, the chips in the picture? I mean, is that too much to ask? Instead, I waited over an hour and ended up with something somehow simultaneously soggy and dry. Blech. Maybe if I were really more patient, but I am not.
4) Green Bean Fries
OH these are so good. Really. Delicious!! I eat them with ranch dressing, and they are just so good, and easy, and fill that snack-sized hole that carbs leave.
5) Skillet Steak
I'm all for the grill, but this really is the way to go. I don't have a cast iron pan, so I pre-heat the broiler pan and then transfer the steak in there when it's time. Key to success: copious use of butter (seasoned or not)
6) Almond Flour Peanut Butter Cookies
I am scarfing these as I type. I do miss baked goods, wicked, and these fit the bill. Unfortunately, Scott's allergic to almonds, so I will have to eat all of these before he comes home (tomorrow- don't worry, there's time!) But I should say, mine looked nothing like the picture here. What the hell, Pinterest posters??
7) Broiled Parmesan Tilapia
Another winna!! Really, bread crumbs are unnecessary, the parmesan does the trick. Yum.
Hungarian Mushroom Soup
This is so freakin' delicious. Skip the dill weed, because dill weed is gross. This soup, minus the dill weed, is just perfection. Enjoy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Good Heavens, Miss Sakamoto... You're Beautiful!

The other day I listened to this episode of RadioLab, about bliss. They talked about the Marsh Chapel Experiment, which I had heard of before, but they interviewed one of the participants who talked about how his experience there led him to a life of deeper faith. It was intriguing to me that these people, already theology students, had an encounter with something chemical and came out with a lasting faith.
My fellow Psychology major friend and I have talked about how much has changed since we were in school learning about the DSM-III. Just this week the DSM-V came out and although I haven't read it (ha!), it sounds like so many of the disorders and syndromes that we studied about have been reduced (revealed?) as chemical issues at their heart. I heard recently about a drug that is being used to treat anorexia. Anorexia! If all these psychological states are just chemical imbalances, what happens to talk therapy? What happens to ferreting out the roots of our dis-ease and working on our mental health? What happens to "tell me about your mother?" Is it all unnecessary now? It's hard for me to believe and also, hard for me to think that the work people have done on their psyches over the years has been worthless. On the other hand, if we can take a pill, balance our chemistry and not be tortured by anorexia, well... that's good, right?
Anyway, during this episode they interviewed a person who had experienced what we'd call a "conversion moment" at a concert with his Christian friends when he was young- a moment when he felt part of a Universal One, a moment of joy, of connection, of groundedness (all my words), of religious bliss. He said he's left that faith since, and as I remember the story, he feels a little jealous of people who can eat a mushroom and conjure those feelings.
I've felt that Universal One feeling, and here I stay, in faith. It wasn't a chemical thing (that I know of!) but a moment, I realize, of falling in love. The people on the show talked about faith as something you experience and then either stay with or lose. It seems to me that love is the same way. Everyone falls hard at some point. The trick is maintaining it, or at least being able to recapture it when necessary, or be able to come to terms with this feeling-and-relationship in a way that it can be sustained.
Later that afternoon, I was standing alone by our fire pit, tending a burning off of extra brush and kindling that has accumulated over the last summer (when it was always, somehow, too hot/rainy/windy/busy to have a fire) and listening to music when this song came up on my list. I took the moment to stand still and feel the sweet warm wind blowing my hair around, felt the heat from the fire, noted that I was surrounded by a happy home (yard) and near Scott, my beloved, and I fell right back into that Universal Oneness, that memory of falling in love with God that happened so so so many years ago.
You are the one my heart is waiting for. You are my treasure, you are my key, you are the door.