I met a man in the ER. He has multiple sclerosis, which is a random marauder that targets the nerves. He was bed-bound, but more on that in a minute. He had belly pain which is what i was called for. He had a ruptured appendix. This is a disease for which Western medicine is designed. We are really good at mechanical issues where we can remove the offending organ and support the rest of the body while it recovers. It really is cool It works. In the past, ruptured appendix was a killer. The problem is that when the appendix gets hole in it, shit rolls out in to the abdomen. That is what my patient had. Off we went to the OR.That part is fine, boring, etc. He did well.
In the course of talking to him I learned that he lives in a single wide. Doesn’t need more because he can’t move. He has monkey bars installed throughout the place to allow him to escape a fire if one arises; or he can make it to his wheelchair for a doctor’s appt. He has a caregiver 4 days a week. The rest of the time, he is in bed with jars for his piss and no help if his bowels move and whatever he can get to read. The ambulance squad said it was desperate in the trailer–I rarely read such a poetic term from them whether “good” or “bad”. Jars of piss all around and open cans of tomato soup with broken egg shells. Desperate.
He is 71.
I keep him in the hospital for as long as I can, but it comes to an end, on Christmas Eve. His wife, deaf and helpless will help him home from his appendectomy. He can’t swing through the trailer for a few weeks because of surgery. This completely undoes his way to live in the world. He will read romance novels with his headlight on, with his legs useless under him, with the tree sparkling in the patient lounge on the fifth floor of the hospital. He is screwed I guess, but when I talk to him he asks for nothing. He wants out of the hospital, wants to go “home” and I can’t get it. But as I sit with him I realize that home is simply not here, in this sick person place. Home is where his deaf wife does her best for him while she can until she can’t and she leaves again for points south and he passes the days with a head lamp on to illuminate the tawdry romance novel he somehow has next to him and he turns the page and turns the page.