|A Mother’s Dying Breath| |Micro Fiction| by Gianni Franco
It was a cold September day in Upstate NY. The leaves on the trees had already begun to surrender their jovial green to autumn’s overbearing orange. The large living room window overlooking the lush green lawn remained closed due to the cold bustling wind.
The living room in the one story home was decorated with white tile floors that blended into white walls. It no longer felt like a home, more like a hospital. The incessant smell of vinyl, latex, and urine lingered throughout. The only two sounds in the room came from the oscillating fan and the ventilator; the latter clicked every thirty seconds followed by a steady hum refilling the canister; the former had a constant buzzing that alternated left and right clearing the smell from the living room that always returned.
Anne lay motionless in a morphine trance on the cold gray vinyl mattress that sat atop the portable hospital bedframe. The bulky contraption resembled a large crib with the bed rails raised. A crib that once prevented her from leaving her bed as a child had grown much larger but had the same effect. Anne’s appearance was much different now as a frail senior but just as helpless as when she once a child.
Death was imminent and no medical miracles could be performed. Only one short month ago the scenario was much different. Anne was walking, talking, and able to feed herself adequately. The visiting nurse, whose bright blue name tag read Raquel, came during the week to offer her assistance and check Anne’s vitals. Twice a week Raquel would say the numbers out loud without emotion and then scribble them onto her notepad.
“120 over 80 – Check. Temperature – 98 – Check. Pulse – 65 – Check. Glucose – 80 – Check. All looks good.”
“That’s good to hear. Thank you Raquel. How long before things change or do you think she will get better?” I hesitantly asked.
“That is difficult to say. Everyone is different. She could be good today but tomorrow could be a completely different scenario. Typically health will decrease gradually like a downward slope rather than all at once. To be honest with you, I don’t think she will ever be ok. You have to be ready for the change. One thing that’s certain is you can never predict the change.”
“Thank you for the advice and information. I’ll monitor her health as best as I can. I really wish I was a nurse. If I was a nurse I could predict the change and help her.”
“There’s nothing you can do. She’s on her own now. I’ve seen all types of sick people and they are all different. I can assure you that when things start to change with Anne you will know.”
Raquel paused for a moment and looked out the large window. Her fixed trance led me to believe she was in deep thought. I hoped that her next words for me would be positive but they were not.
“I have some bad news for you. I will no longer be coming to check Anne’s vitals. Home hospice has been cancelled and will no longer pay for services. The services are now to be rendered by the caretaker in the home and that is you.”
“Why? I don’t understand. I need you here to help me,” I pleaded.
“Unfortunately, Anne’s vitals no longer need to be documented. Anne has reached the point of no return. You will be fine. Just make her comfortable and keep her hospital bed facing the window for sunlight. Stay strong and don’t be afraid to give her more morphine. You can adjust the amount higher as the need arises.”
I started shaking my head and sarcastically shouted, “Is that your last piece of advice for me? Morphine and stay strong?”
Raquel looked at me with no emotion and said only one word before she left. “Yes.”
I slammed the door shut and sat back down next to Anne with my hands cupped over my face. I could not be upset with Raquel. She was just a nurse doing her job, which she had done for hundreds of deaths before Anne. I was weak and bestowed upon myself a false sense of friendship with the nurse. I envied her strength and knew she could help me but that was not her job. Raquel was my only outlet to the outside world beyond these white walls because I had no friends.
I looked at Anne’s glossy eyes and asked, “Why did you do this to me? Why did you do this now?” I hoped for a response that obviously never arrived as I hung my head low and closed my eyes.
Each day that passed was harder than the previous one. The downward slope of health that the nurse suggested had begun in full force. An urban myth said that if you add more morphine to a patient they will suffer less and die quicker, so I dabbed heavy amounts into her mouth. That myth was later debunked by the family physician.
I ran back and forth from the bathroom to the living room to grab cold compresses for her forehead. That action turned out to be another pathetic attempt by me to comfort her. I created a myth that cold water would bring her back but in reality she could no longer feel. That became evident as I held her ice cold hand for a brief moment.
Anne’s ability to breathe drastically changed for the worse as well. Each completed breath had a one minute interval. I tried to move her in hopes of bringing up her breathing rate and as I lifted her torso I heard and felt multiple ribs crack in my hand. At that very moment her breathing turned into a gurgling suffocation that echoed loudly within the room for the next twelve hours. Anne’s last breath arrived and departed as I held her cold lifeless hand at 2:30 pm that day.