Pete’s Home is in the Woods
My friend Pete, who didn’t want anything done to him, is getting everything modern medical technology can offer to keep him alive.
I’m irate, but maintain dignity; after all, after all what? Jumping up and down and screaming won’t help. No, I’m an adult. I don’t want to be an adult; not now. Emotions, my ire, come out in my words to circle of staff: a doctor, nurses, a social worker about what the nurse heard the night before. I raise my voice, emphatic: “He didn’t want any of this. How come this wasn’t in the chart?” They look at each other, shrug — they have no clue. They ask me, “Who the was the nurse on last night?” I describe him, but they can’t do anything in the moment, but will find out what happened. My rant is for me, surrogate for Pete: “How come no one filled the Advanced Directives for him?” They all know this is standard upon admission, but it wasn’t done. I’m feeling guilty that I didn’t take more time to fill it out myself. I leave the staff standing there and go into Pete’s room afraid of something unknown.
Pete is totally sedated. I stand over him, agonizing that here he is — things done to him that he was not wanting. My fault? The hospitals fault? Divine intervention? There are feelings in me: I’m totally disturbed, angry. At who? Why? My guilt, almost to the deepest part of my being, but I remain prayerful. What comes into my mind is a Sufi teaching: There is no Reality Except God. La Illaha Il Allah Hu. For some unknown reason, this is how it was intended. Pete is still alive. Maybe this is good not knowing anything else.
Leaving the hospital on unsteady feet I go to Arupa’s house where we commiserate with each other. We put our souls together as we try to be one with Pete remembering our promises to him. She appreciates that I know hospital work and will lead the effort to help work through what needs to be done.
That night, back to see Pete, asking myself how I’m going to deal with the nurse who heard Pete state his wishes the night before. There’s an uneasiness I’m feeling about confronting him, then, before I know it, we see each other as he walks towards Pete’s room. There’s no waiting for him to say anything: but in a low, strained, hospital voice, I express anger, but don’t like expressing anger: “What the hell happened? You heard him last night. I’m pissed.”
“I’m pissed too.” He stops my action, whatever that was going to be. He’s pissed?
“Whadda mean, you’re pissed?”
“I talked with Pete after you left and he told me the same thing again that he told us together. I had a tech in with me so we had two witnesses. I paged the doctor a few times for him to come up and sign the order, but he was busy on another emergency and never came up to sign the order. I knew this was going to happen if it didn’t get signed.”
What a story. It’s like a movie script. Ten years living in Hollywood, my thoughts create their own scenarios. I trust what the nurse tells me. I know sincerity. An old friend, another male nurse, is standing in an adjacent room. We stare at each other for a broken moment. This is real and here’s Pete. An oversight. Sorry, but you are alive Pete and a drama is going to be played out. You’re the main character. No audition was necessary.
The nurse and I spend time standing next to Pete, who is in a drugged state, unaware of all that’s going on around him. The nurse is remorseful, but it was beyond him. I spend an hour standing at the foot of Pete’s bed looking at him, sending him loving energy, unable to rationalize what wasn’t done, trying to understand what is going on with Pete. Two days ago, in a tent in the woods, now this. A part of me feels something is out of harmony. Maybe nothing is… everything is as its intended. I try to understand my uneasy acceptance of the elements of life that are not easily understood. Damn, this is a hard one.