Tahiti

The old man was upstairs in the room in this farmhouse in which he was born. His granddaughter explained that he had Alzheimer’s and would not go easily. She said he had stopped eating and drinking. In the past, they had always been able to get him to eat and drink when he had been stubborn, but not this time. She feared he was dehydrated.

We found him sitting on the bed in the sparsely furnished room. I could hear the winter wind rattle the window sill. I told him we had come to take him to the hospital to see the doctor, but he looked away. I sat beside him on the bed while he looked about the room and talked in a language all his own. “It’s okay,” I said. “We’re just going to take an easy ride to the hospital. No worries, just an easy ride.”

He finally stood and nodded toward the door. “Thank you,” I said. He gestured for me, and my partner and his granddaughter to move toward the door. He followed behind us. We left the room, one at a time. I was the last to go. He was right behind me. As soon as I was through the door, he closed it behind me. I quickly shoved my foot to block the door from closing, but his granddaughter said, “There’s no lock on it. Just wait, and you’ll be able to go back in.”

He stood behind the door holding it. After a few minutes when I tried the door again, it was open, and he was back to sitting on the bed, looking down at his old shoes, thinking about I know not what.

More cajoling and persuading to no end. We ended the standoff by bringing up the stair chair and lifting him from the bed onto it. He gave minimal resistance. We strapped him in and carried him down the creaky wooden steps, and then out of this house where he had lived for eight-five years.

The wind blew across the snow covered farmland. We had his head covered with a towel and blankets wrapped around him. We lifted him up into the back of the ambulance. One of my partners is a woman amazingly enough in her eighties herself, who now sits in the back of the ambulance on our calls, never venturing into the scene, but she is there to great the patients when we lift them in, and she knows many of them, and comforts them while I treat them. She addressed this man by name, but he didn’t recognize her. He said some words to the back door that we could not understand.

“He was a school teacher,” she said aloud. “He always wanted to go to Tahiti. He always talked about it. My husband told him to pack his suitcase and leave the day he retired.”

“Look at you now,” she said. “You never did get to Tahiti, did you?”

**

Today (a week later)we read his obituary in the paper. He died in a local nursing home.

8 Comments

  • Walt Trachim says:

    So sad.I never have the right words for situations like this – persuading a patient who is not in their right mind to go with us is one thing, but usually I’ve found that the real patient is the family members. There have been so many times where the easy part was dealing with the patient; the wife/child/sibling needed some PFA from us because they are at the end of their rope.It is hard.

  • AlisonH says:

    Thank you for being gentle to an old soul and his loved ones.

  • Epijunky says:

    I couldn’t agree with what Walt said more. I’m just glad you were the one who was there.

  • Braden says:

    I get the feeling from reading your blog that you are a very caring person. The world needs more first responders like that.And I lived in Tahiti for quite a while. It isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If only I could have told the old man.

  • Elaine says:

    Indeed, a very sad poat, especially at this time of year.However, to Braden, sometimes it is better to find out for yourself that a place is not all it cracked up to be.

  • First On Scene EMS says:

    This particular posting made me think a lot about the patients we deal with that, for some reason or another (illness or more frequently for me, injury) are incapable to make that decision to go to the hospital, and we make it for them. I think about them a lot, and realize that I made the decision as if they were a family member of mine, and that I would want that family member treated.Either way, it isn’t an easy decision, but one that needs to be made. You persisted, provided care, and did it in a way the preserved his dignity, and was very caring. 🙂

  • SuperStenoGirl says:

    Great post. I read it as a warning to live every day as though it were your last. If you want to go to Tahiti, or Hawaii, you need to find a way to do so. We don’t want to leave this world with “should haves” and “could haves”. At least, I don’t.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this blog. May you have another year of quality blogging. Happy new year! Stay safe.

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