Archive for July, 2012

Even though I can normally talk to my husband about anything, I was embarrassed to talk to him about this man.  I had already told him about the first encounter, and he correctly pointed out how foolish I was to think this man was calling me over for medical help.  So I figured he would really think I was being silly about the entire thing.  The following Monday morning, I drove over to my girlfriend’s house so I could walk with her and her husband for exercise.  We would walk very early before having to start my day with Clara.  As we were walking, I was relating how I was dreading going to dialysis that afternoon because of this man and I related my experience.  Her husband asked what my husband thought of it and I told him that I was too embarrassed to tell him and why.  He told me that this man sounded like a real threat and I really needed to tell Andy about it.  He also told me it was important for me to alert the staff at dialysis of my concern.  First my sister, now my girlfriend’s husband is telling me not to ignore my gut reaction.  It was hard to believe this man was a real problem but it was also hard to ignore that he could be.  Andy was already at work and I had to take Clara to dialysis but I promised I would tell Andy as soon as he got home from work.  After getting Clara set up in the treatment area, I asked to speak with the head nurse.  I told her my three experiences with this man and she said she knew exactly what I was talking about.  She told me he often makes her feel uncomfortable.  Then she said what worried her is that this man works at the Motor Vehicle Administration and she worried he would run her car tags and find out her home address.  Now this didn’t feel like my imagination running away anymore.  The head nurse said she could talk to him on my behalf and I told her I felt it was important for me to deal with it directly.  At this point, I felt intimidated when I walked into the dialysis center, and I wanted to get my control back.  I just wanted to alert her to my plans.

That night, I knew I had to keep my promise to tell Andy.  I asked him if he remembered the man that patted his chest and he laughed and said yes.  I told him about the next time he used his finger to call me over and he stopped laughing.  As I got to my third encounter, he was on the edge of his seat.  Rather than feeling like I was going to be blamed for creating this problem, Andy was ready to go to battle for me.  At this point I just told him what happened, not even my reaction to it and Andy said this guy sounded like a real problem and potential threat.  As I told him how scared I was all weekend, he couldn’t believe I didn’t tell him sooner.  He told me not to worry, that he would take care of the matter immediately.  I thanked him, but told him I felt it was essential for me to at least try to handle it first, because I felt this man took some control from me and replaced it with fear.  I needed to get my control back.  Andy reluctantly agreed that I could handle it first.  I wondered if any other caregiver found herself in this mess!


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The strange man is now scary

Once I became Clara’s full time caregiver, it seemed to make me think I had to stop and help everyone that I thought needed help.  It’s a nice quality in some ways, and one that leads to problems in another, especially since I wasn’t always balanced with it.  After that day at dialysis with the strange man patting his chest, I tried to go back to acting like I didn’t see him.  Once again he was situated in the chair by the door and as I was leaving he took his index finger and made a motion like you do when you want someone to come over.  Not learning my lesson, I walked over and asked if he was okay.  He said I looked very nice that day.  Something about this man made me feel dirty and degraded the way he would speak, even though he did not say anything that I would consider crude.  I kindly thanked him and continued on my way.  About a week later when Clara and I arrived he was in the reception area.  This was the first time we arrived that he was not already in the treatment area and as Clara and I approached the door at her usual snail’s pace, this man was at the door opening it.  He held the door in such a way that I would have to brush up against him to get through with Clara.  I said, “I appreciate you being such a gentleman, but it is easier for me to get Clara through the door by myself.”  He stood to the side, but as we got inside the doorway, he said in a low, disgusting voice, “Ha…ha…ha…, I’m no gentleman.”  He said each word slow and deliberate.  It really gave me the creeps and I could feel my heart racing in fear.  I’m trying to hurry Clara along like I used to when Miss Betty was throwing her fit and Clara yelled, “Slow down, stop rushing me.”  He just stood there looking me up and down.  When we got to the scale to get Clara’s weight, she asked me who the man was that was at the door.  I told her it was the man I told her before that tries to get me to come over to his chair.  She said that she could not hear what he said but his tone of voice gave her the creeps.  As we were walking back to the treatment area, I was telling her what he said and told her he made me feel scared.  Clara was so sweet, she said just to stay with her for awhile, until I was sure he was back in the treatment area and out of the reception area.  When I left, I called my sister Kathy.  I had told her about this man’s strange antics before, but related how he was waiting at the door and how he made me feel.  Then I told her I knew I was being silly but that I really felt scared when I left.  She gave me a strong lecture and told me many rape victims had bad feelings about someone they knew, ignored those feelings as silly then later were victims of that same man.  I told her that this man was sickly and he probably just wanted attention.  By the time she was done with me, this man now felt like a real threat to me.  When we got home from dialysis that evening, it was already getting dark and no one else was home.  Our home is in a wooded area and I was paranoid looking all around.  To be continued…

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Dialysis and the strange man…

Clara was almost always assigned to the same treatment chair.  There was a man that was always in the chair two seats down from Clara.  He looked like he was around my age, maybe a few years older.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see him watching us as I would get Clara situated.  Clara was supposed to stand until the technician or nurse could come over to get her blood pressure.  Most days, just the walk from the car to the treatment area would tire Clara out and she would get grumpy if she had to wait more than ten seconds to have her blood pressure taken.  So it was easy for me to learn how to do it, so I could take Clara’s standing blood pressure.  Then she could sit down and get comfortable in her treatment chair.  Each chair had its own TV, so I would turn on the channel Clara wanted, put her headset on, and adjust the volume.  Then I would take her sitting blood pressure and usually by then one of the technicians or nurses came over to start Clara’s treatment and I would leave.  I could just feel this man watching me the entire time, but I dismissed it as boredom of his surroundings.  However, I was still careful not to look his way or even say hello.  I really did not want to give any wrong signals to him or to any of the nurses that were watching.  One day this man was in the chair next to Clara, which was probably four or five feet away.  As I finished with Clara, I just nodded my head towards him as to say hello, because it seemed rude not too.  That was the extent of things for some time.  Then one day Clara was seated on the opposite side of the treatment area and this man was seated near the doorway by the exit.  As I was walking towards the doorway I could feel him looking at me and I gave my head nod and he put his hand on his heart and was patting it.  I wasn’t sure what to make of that, and I kept on walking, but he just looked at me and patted over his heart.  There was not a nurse in sight, and I wondered if he was having chest pains and here I am walking right out past him.  So I went over and asked him if he was okay and he said he had gone to a funeral that morning for a friend of his.  I expressed my sympathy for him and told him I noticed he had a tie on and now I understood why.  He said for me he would wear a tie everyday if I wanted.  Oh, good Lord, what did I do to deserve this?  It’s not much of a confidence booster attracting a sick man surrounded by elderly patients!  I again told him I was sorry about his friend and left.  On my way home I had to laugh at myself.  That night I was telling my husband about my stupidity and he said, “Michele, you are at a center filled with health care professionals, and you think you are the one he is going to tell he has chest pains too!”  I like be helpful, and sometimes I don’t use balance.

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After being at the new center for just a week, when Clara and I walked in, the wife of one of the patient’s was throwing a fit.  She was cursing like a sailor at the staff, angry that her husband’s treatment did not end on time.  I put my head down to mind my own business and was trying to hurry Clara back to the treatment area, but Clara would take these baby steps and it seemed like it was taking forever to reach the treatment area.  This woman kept asking me what I thought about the inconsiderate bunch here and I’m still trying to hurry Clara thinking I DON’T WANT TO GET INVOLVED.  I was even tugging on Clara’s arm a bit trying to hurry her, but I think Clara was intrigued by the commotion and was trying to figure out what was going on.  This woman walked over to get me to join her in complaining, I just said that we were new here and I was sorry she was having a bad day.  As we finally got in the treatment area, I told the nurse that we were in no way connected to the angry woman in the reception area.  I didn’t stop to think that they would know who this woman was since her husband was a patient; I was just so worried about getting off on the wrong foot with this new center.  Each time we would arrive for Clara’s treatment, this woman would be yelling and cursing about something.  Since there was no avoiding her, I decided to break my own rule and try to befriend her.  I found out that she worked at a nursing home.  She arranged her schedule to go to work after her husband’s dialysis, so she could pick him up and transport him home.  Her loud complaining was because her husband had not finished on schedule and it was making her late for work.  In time, it seemed like this woman, Miss Betty, would wait for us to arrive.  I would always try to calm her when she was agitated, and in time I learned a lot about Miss Betty.  It became clear she had a hard exterior, but was a woman full of pain and love to give on the inside.  She had a very difficult childhood, and there were many things about her adult life that wasn’t that great either.  Eventually, when we arrived, we never found her yelling, just sitting around talking with others in the reception area, and I would always have a quick visit with her after dropping Clara off.  We ended up forming a friendship that surpassed the dialysis center.  When her husband died, I visited her at the funeral home and found out from her children that she spoke warmly of me.  I was glad I broke my own rule with her.

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A new dialysis center opened just five minutes from our house.  Clara had made such remarkable progress, it was obvious the doctor’s initial estimate of her life expectancy was wrong, and we started making provisions to transfer her to the new location.  On one hand it was the greatest of compliments to be told by medical personnel that Clara was living much longer than they ever anticipated because of the care I provided for her.  On the other hand, some days that was a conflict of interest for me!!  Clara wasn’t thrilled about changing where she would receive her dialysis; she was used to going where she was.  I kindly pointed out to her that while she only had a twenty minute ride over, I still had another twenty minute ride to get back home, that did not include having to come back after her treatment was over to pick her up and drive back home again.  Clara said she did not want to change, but understood it would be selfish on her part not to.  I decided that it would also be good for me since I had become attached to so many patients at the old center, and since that required so much of my time; I was not going to get involved with anyone at the new dialysis center.  I was so excited the first time we went to the new center.  We left the house, I got Clara weighed and set up in her treatment chair and I was back home in less than 20 minutes.  With not knowing any of the other patients I didn’t feel the need to stop and visit with anyone.  Since it was a new center, they were not filled to capacity yet, so Clara’s chair was always ready when we arrived. 

There is an article in Energy Times entitled, LOVE’S CHALLENGE, Caring for an ill family member can be emotionally and physically wearying.


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