Today my Marylou Died
We met 2 yrs ago, when I went to her house as an interpreter for the visiting nurses. She sat at the head of her dining table where she sat always when we came. She was surely striking, her hair cut like the Indians in the deep forests of Brazil, a little bowl cut to the middle of her ears. Her very dark skin, reminded me of my own grandfather, far more red than brown. And then, her most striking green eyes put her in a level of a National Geographic cover. She was 65 then, 4 yrs older than me, but she looked 25 yrs older than me. Perhaps it was the 6 am trip 3 times per week to dialysis for her diabetes.
I was there 3 times per week with 2 therapists, the nurse and the social worker. She was chipper, aware, and when she spoke, she was particularly loud, from what I would come to know as the hole in her ear, and the pending operation to repair it. I took about a year for her to come to call me “Yola”, a common nickname among the Spanish for Yolanda. One day she asked me for a favor, she was visibly uncomfortable about it. She needed to go pay for a bill and she had not transportation. So after the nurses left, we left too.
That became a frequent outing for us. After about 3 times she asked to take me to lunch. Of course I said yes, even though I really felt far more uncomfortable than her now. She really wanted to go to a Chinese buffet, about the worst thing for her. She would sit eating quietly, no conversation at all, she would just get up and het her next plate, all carbs and sweets……
One day she actually said something, she said that she had never asked anyone to lunch, she did not like eating with anyone. She did not know why she liked me and trusted me enough to ask out to eat. I felt so honored yet clueless why she would feel that way about me, but I loved the complement. Two more times later, she said her name was Mari Lou. Not Maria as she appeared on the paper work. I think we were officially friends.
I’ll miss you Mari Lou,
The visits with the nurses were lively as they would ask her questions about her faithfulness to the diet she was given and she said always YESS YESS!!, to which I would interpret : “She says yesss, but I believe the answer to be bogus” I don’t know if she understood me, but I think we all were on the same page about her self-discipline.
One day, the nurse said to her to explain the fall she had and she had called her doctor about it. The first time she fell she was coming back from dialysis and she described her fall as though she was running forward. I think she saw the floor coming up to her face. Then it was every couple of weeks that she would fall, some she could explain, some she just said she got dizzy.
Last summer, September, her social worker stressed more than ever that she needed to consider assistant living. She really, really did not want it. I persuaded her to just go visit, I would take her to some places and she would see how it worked.
That would never come to be. She was hospitalized for the next 3 months. But I did not know for weeks where she was. When I finally got to go see her, I found her tied to her bed. Her eyes in desperation fixed on me,….”Yola!! ayudame!! Help me, what am I doing here? I did not do anything wrong!!!! Why am I in jail?
I was speechless. I looked at some staff doing I don’t know what about the room. I asked why was she tied? They ever so casually said: “She became combative”
I didn’t know if to go untie her, to demand of the staff to do so, or to attend to Marylou’s questions….
I swallowed my tears hard, and knelt next to her as asked her how she was, what happened?.
She truly did not know. I turned to the nurses and asked to untie her, she is not combative, and she would not be combative. They murmured something about the doctor, so I stood up and with a very angry quiet look I demanded that doctor come immediately and explain this.
In no time at all, 8 doctors came into the room. Deep, far in the back of my mind I was surprised that they came. Who am I after all?
So I took a very aggressive manner of explaining her questioning of thinking she was in jail, that she was considered to be combative, and then I asked why was she tied to her bed,
Her doctor calmly said again she was combative.
I asked why,
he said she seem confused and she would not comply with the directions given.
I asked about interpreting,
He pointed to a “blue phone” used for that purpose,
I asked if she understood
They were surprised at my question,
“We imagined she did, it was told to her….”
I asked him if he understood her…..
He said, almost cynically, no..
So I screamed at him: WHY THEN ARE YOU NOT TIED TO A BED ???? IF IT IS YOU WHO DID NOT UNDERSTAND HER!!!!!
By then I was shaking….angry
And it was pointless.
So she was moved to another place and they chained her, and another had cords so when the patient got out of bed the patient would be stopped by the cord. My Maria, on the way to the bathroom tripped on the cord, so they tied her to the bed.
She never went back home.
Last Friday, when I got there she told me she was ready for the cemetery.
I knew exactly why.
She was always alone with a one Spanish channel TV as the only conversation in the last 7 months. Not a single staff member in any place was bilingual; they would call me to tell her to comply about something. They said she was not complying about going to therapy.
So I asked them if she could go out on Sunday. They were ambivalent, they did not trust her to not fall, so I said to my Mari Lou to prove to them that she was strong, that she would not fall, that she needs to comply, that she needs to eat. For the next 3 days she did just that in the hope to be able to go out with Rafael, her loving significant other.
She did it all just fine, until the black social worker came in. All came tumbling down in her world so fast, so hard, so sad. She did not survive that harsh talking to.
My Mari Luo died the next Tuesday at 11:30 am.
I was on my way to noon Mass at that moment, mentally preparing, knowing I had an appointment with her and her lawyer at 1 pm. The little holy card of Our Lady od Guadalupe that had been for 3 yrs pinned to my overhead light fell. Most surprised I picked it up and put it back behind the plastic wondering how it could have fallen out….. and it fell again!!.
After Mass I was hurrying to her nursing home when the lawyer told me. Mari Lou died that morning. Our meeting is off.
I went to the hospital where she had died and they let me go to the room where she was. They had put a polka dot orange and yellow blanket over her and a rose at the door…….. while she laid there with the tube sticking out of her gaping open mouth from trying to resuscitate her, most undignified, but with the stupid orange and yellow polka dot blanket they put on all the deceased people. The female chaplain told me the put those on the deceased, to bring a touch of happy and light because of the sad circumstance.
I starred at her with great pity, but I understood her.
I drove away with my head swimming with images of all her dreadful suffering now ended. I called my husband to pray the Pieta prayers for the dead, and I wondered just how many poor un-understood people are tied to their beds and no one knows how confused they are.
I’ll miss you my Mari Lou, my friend.