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More Than You Think MAG
She is the newest resident of Room 458, but the days people have here are few. I pick up the patient book to find her name, diagnosis and when she was admitted, then go down the hall to her room. I check her board information, as well as her supply drawer. I notice how skinny she is. She lays in bed covered up, with pillows all around, staring at the television.
"Hi, Thelma," I greet her. I get an empty look in return. A nurse comes in to ask me to help with another patient. When 4:30 rolls around, the hospital staff brings the food trays.
The nurse asks if I would be comfortable feeding Thelma. This is my first time feeding anyone. Putting a small bit of mashed potatoes on the fork, I hold it in front of her mouth. She looks at me sadly, and then at the fork. Then Thelma opens her mouth and takes the potatoes. She mushes them around in her mouth. As soon as she gets them down, she says her first words to me.
"I've almost forgotten what food tastes like. It's just so good." No sooner does she finish her sentence than the nurse comes in.
"Thelma is eating?" she asks, surprised, explaining right in front of Thelma that she hasn't eat for anyone since she's been there. As I look at Thelma, her eyes get even bigger and she smiles. I feel happy that she so quickly felt comfortable with me. Then the realization sinks in that I have the responsibility of this old woman on my hands. And then I feel badly that I hadn't come sooner, that I only volunteer once a week. But an instant bond has formed. Thelma is my new friend, and my oldest, at 85.
Monday night dinner is soon all Thelma has to look forward to. The second week I sit and watch TV with her until dinner when I again feed her. Week three makes me want to give Thelma a great big hug. After I'm done feeding her, I go to get her some water. She says, "Grab my purse, I need to pay you."
I quickly respond, "Thelma, you don't need to pay me, or anyone else around here. We are here for you."
"I want to pay you for being so nice to me."
The poor thing, she's so cute; I feel like I need to be there every day.
Week four is a letdown. When I chat with the nurses, they tell me that all Thelma does lately is sleep, she won't even wake up to see her husband. When I go in, I say her name and she looks at me, but falls right to sleep. She eats no dinner that night.
The next week is the same. Thelma knows I am there, but can't keep her eyes open to talk or even have a sip of water. I ask the nurses how much longer they think she has. One says, "She just keeps holding on, but I'm guessing next Tuesday will be her last day." I leave the hospital that night thinking that at least I'll see Thelma next Monday.
But I don't. As soon as I get there, even before entering the room, I can tell. I peek my head inside and only see an empty room. No Thelma.
I ask the nurse when she passed.
"Last week, right after you left," she tells me.