"I need to go...Joe and the boys are waiting for me"
I looked up from the computer as one of my nursing home patients zoomed past with a veteran nurse running behind her. The nurse's brow was sweaty and she was huffing to keep pace. Her barely perceptible limp a remnant from a distant ankle fracture she suffered one late night while on duty.
"Sarah....Sarah...Joe is gone, he died long ago."
Sarah stopped in her tracks as her face momentarily hardened and then became blank.
"The boys...I have to get to the boys!"
The nurse was now sitting. She sat with her ankle up on a chair and looked over with both sadness and exasperation.
"They're dead...they all died before you came here".
Again Sarah paused. For a moment you could see the realization enter her face. She lifted both arms and gently cradled her own head as if in slow motion.
"OK then.....where's Mary?"
Mary, her sister who had lived with her in the nursing home until just a few weeks prior, had died quietly in her sleep.
The nurse was now back on her feet and held Sarah's waist and started to walk her back to her room. Her voice almost a whisper.
"Mary....Mary," you could see her take a moment to think it through, "Mary died".
Sarah's stooped posture jerked upright. A look of anger entering her face as she shrieked,
"Mary is not dead!"
A certified nursing assistant hearing the commotion jumped from an adjacent chair and lunged forward as the nurse began to talk again.
"Of course she's dead...I took you to the funeral!"
Sarah was now thrashing..pushing away restraining hands.
"You lie...I did not go to her funeral...I did not go to her funeral!"
Multiple nursing home staff closed in and gently guided Sarah back to her room.
The nurse came out a few minutes later and limped toward me. As I stared I felt both annoyance and great compassion . She was now sweating profusely and her gait abnormalities had become more prominent.
She crumpled into the chair next to mine and sighed loudly. A few moments later we both shuddered as the door flew open and Sarah burst out of the room in full sprint and ran toward the door...
"I need to go....Joe and the boys are waiting for me!"