Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Hold Your Family Close

As most folks know, I work for a hospital. We have a geriatric home attached to us, which makes for some interesting calls. And some which break your heart.

I keep getting silly calls ... there is a woman who doesn't know what "Palliative Care" is. I think she knows that her friend is dying, but she keeps phoning up and asking for "Pelican Care". I find this both amusing and disturbing at the same time. We aren't in the business of caring for waterfowl.

I also get calls for the "Psychic" ward. Yeah, lady, your friend is nuts, she's in the Psychiatric ward. If she was psychic she would have known you wanted to speak to her and would have called you already. And the line is busy, please call back later.

But then ... yeah, like I said, there are some hard ones.

We have one man who keeps on trying to call home ... and tells us he can't reach the number from that phone. Although it's not 'officially' part of our function to put through local calls, we do. We're human. And he wants to call his wife, who still lives in his house. The reason he can't get through is that she has call display and won't answer when she sees it's the hospital calling. I understand that she doesn't want 15-20 calls a day ... but ... he's sitting in a box, in a hospital room, alone. And his wife won't talk to him. And maybe there are reasons I don't know about and I shouldn't be judging. So I do the best I can, and he and I just deal, and sometimes he gets to talk to his wife.

That's not the heartbreaker though.

There is one lady, and I use that term with the greatest of respect, who calls us on a regular basis at the switchboard. She is obviously confused although she doesn't portray this in speech or manner. Whatever number it is she is dialing causes only one of the two switchboards to ring. Whenever the call comes in on that one line, we know it's her.

We answer with "switchboard" and she is always startled and apologizes, and asks what number she has reached. If you ask her she will tell you what number she is calling. She's calling an exchange that hasn't existed for 30 years or more.

It used to be that exchanges had names, i.e. if you were calling "COllingwood 7" (no, that's not what she's calling) it would be 267 and then the other four digits. If you ask her who she's trying to reach she will tell you that she is calling her parents at her family home. She always says it just like that, "Why, I'm calling my family home."

And then I tell her that we can't get through to that number (seeing everyone there has been dead for years), and she says, "Oh, I'm sorry to have bothered you, thank you, love. Night night." And then she hangs up. And then I sit there and cry.

Every single time.

And then I suck it up and go about making the world safe for democracy and shit, and try to explain to people why I will NOT put them through to Labour and Delivery just so they can see how their friend is doing because really right about now she's shitting a football and if I put your call through she'd tell you what she REALLY thinks about you and you just don't need that.

So people, if you have family, hold them close. Care for them. If you have any way of avoiding putting them in a box in a geriatric home then don't, even if they're annoying as all fuck. Don't let them be the lady who makes me cry every night because I can't put her call through, k?

I'm just askin'.

And if you have no way of avoiding it, then rest assured that I will always try my best to take care of them. And always say "night night" in return.

I love Pelican Care.

My mother, for whatever reason, used to think 'Alzheimers Diease' was called 'Old Timers Disease'.
FWIW, there's often a reason for caller ID. But then, we've had that conversation.

My spiritual advisor (minister-friend) advises that as long as I am assured that she is looked after, my sanity and my nuclear family come first.

But yeh, sometimes I weep.
I have never heard of Palliative Care. (people who are terminally ill care, is that what it means?) I think we call it Hospice.

I loved this post. Thanks.
Yes, hospice care. Thank you.
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