Memory

The man has dementia to the point he forgets that he called us. He forgets that he went to the hospital yesterday for the same complaint, forgets that they saw him and sent him home, forgets what they told him about it. “You were the one who called them,” his wife says, after he demands to know why we are in his bedroom.

He looks confused, but doesn’t deny that he might have called. It is as if he has some recollection of it, and is not certain enough to swear he didn’t.

“Is there anything wrong?” I ask.

“Me got pain here,” and he points below his belly button, same as yesterday. “Bothering me all night,” he says.

The house is disorderly. Yesterday I made the decision to put the man in a wheel chair and wheel him out to the breezeway where we had the stretcher set up. That way we didn’t have to move furniture and could maneuver well enough through the obstacles.

And so yesterday I wheeled him right to the door, leaving space to open it. I set the brake, opened the door and stepped into the breezeway. My plan was to help him step down, and then I could pivot him onto the stretcher. But before I could react, he felt the cold blast of air, and tried to kick the door shut. “COOOOLD!” he shouted. “YA trying to FREEEZE Me! Get out of Me House! Get out of Me House Now!”

And so ensued a struggle to keep him from locking us out while we braced the door against his kicks and negotiated to get back in the house and the whole time he was yelling at us like we were bandits come to rob him and then leave him out in the cold.

Today I say to my different partner, I want the stretcher brought into the bedroom. He looks at me like I am crazy. I acknowledge that we will have to move some furniture to get the stretcher in to the bedroom, but that is what we will need to do.

Memory.

The furniture moved, the patient wrapped tightly with thick blankets and our trademark towell around his head like a babushka, we carry out though the porch and then outside across the snow to our ambulance.

“Cold out,” he says rather calmly.

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