If you would like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part 12” click the title.
Terry Sheldon spent nearly an hour trying to get from his office down town to his parents’ house. He was stressed and exhausted by the time he entered their circular driveway, and he was late.
He knew his dad would be fretting about how long it had been since his mom had been taken to the bathroom. Terry did his best, but the physical distance he had to travel could only be traversed in one unpredictable way, and its name was Mopac. Mopac or Loop 1 was one of the two main freeways running north/south through Austin. During rush hour it was a parking lot, where you might get to roll forward at one mile per hour if you were lucky, with the occasional surge to five or ten miles per hour. At any other time of day, he could make the trek from downtown to the suburbs of West Austin in about 20 minutes.
“Hey Dad,” he called as he came in through the front door. Terry noted that it was unlocked again. He’d had conversations about this with his father several times, but there was just no convincing the septuagenarian that Austin had become a big, impersonal, crime ridden city, where doors should remain locked even in broad daylight.
“You’re here! Well, I guess I’ll call off the National Guard.”
“Very funny Dad. You guys doin’ o.k. today?”
“We’re doin’ all right, though your mom’s probably a little wet right now.”
“I’m sorry, Dad. I got here as fast as I could. How’s she been today?”
“About the same. This disease is a terrible, terrible thing, but at least she doesn’t seem to be in any pain. That’s what I always say, you know. We can be grateful that she’s not in any pain.”
Terry glanced at his mother dozing peacefully in her geriatric recliner. At moments like this, his father’s words rang true, but all that would change the minute they woke Mabeline up to take her to the bathroom.
The first challenge would be getting her out of the chair. Her body was stiff, and her range of motion extremely limited. In addition to the Alzheimer’s, she had arthritis in her knees and shoulders. She could no longer raise her arms more than a couple of inches to the side, but she could raise them straight in front of her about half way up.
The nurses said her shoulders were “locked,” and, yes, the arthritis hurt. Every time they moved her, they ran the risk of bumping or pulling an inflamed join, causing a sharp pain. To mitigate the potential soreness, they rubbed Ketoprofen, an anti inflammatory, pain killing cream, on her knees and shoulders ever time they took her to the bathroom.
Mabeline could still put weight on her feet and legs, and could occasionally stand with a lot of help. There were a couple of ways of lifting her. For a simple transfer from her geri chair or bed to her wheelchair, they could use a two person method where each person faced her and hooked an arm under one of her arms. Then on the count of three, both people lifted at once, bending their legs and rapidly shifting the weight of her body onto theirs. This lift had the advantage of dividing the labor between two people, and was safest for the lifters.
Most of the CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) who came to bathe Mabeline used this option. They either came in teams of two or enlisted one of the patients’ caregivers to help with the transfer. The down side to it was that they were tucking their arms under her shoulders, pushing them into her armpits and forcing her arms out in the direction they didn’t comfortably move.
A few CNAs could execute a one person lift, wrapping their arms around her torso and pulling up and against their bodies. Terry could do this too, but Kari could not, meaning Bob had to help her.
Was Mabeline in any pain? It was hard to say. She had lost the ability to smile shortly after she lost the ability to speak, over a year before. Her face rarely registered any kind of emotion at all. There was one expression she occasionally made. It was mostly in her eyes, which was probably why she could still make it. There was little appreciable muscle movement involved.
It was a look of distress, pure and simple. There was no way of determining exactly how uncomfortable she was when that look crossed her face, but they knew it meant she was experiencing some kind of discomfort.
In addition to the panic in her eyes, there was an open mouthed, tension to her expression that reminded Terry of the famous Edvard Munch painting, The Scream. Like the figure in the painting, Mabeline could only emit, what should have been an auditory cry, visually. Her screams were silent, if in fact, that’s what they were. Their impotent nature made them all the more haunting.
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