Saturday, 9 August 2008

mortality and keystrokes

It’s late, and I’ve been working on the Death Lists for what feels like hours, punctuated by registering patients for the ER and the phone calls by people desperate to say goodnight to ill loved ones.

I’m starting to welcome the distractions.

On the surface, it’s not a terrible task – input a health card number, start the process of closing out a deceased’s file. It’s all a series of numbers. HCN, the date of death (day first, Jess, you’re not in America now) the code for this hospital, and then mark it - EXO or EXP, dependent upon where they died – in this hospital or another, at home or in a cot surrounded by flashing lights and shrilling alarms.

I’m not used enough to the pattern of tab-tab-tab-enter-numbers-tab-tab to ignore the other things written in these brief missives of ended lives. Things keep slowing me up.
Grabbing my attention. Things like DROWNED AT HOME or the shorthand diagnoses of failing health, of PLEURAL EFFUSION to TIA to DIED IN HOSPITAL.

I think if I came upon a name of someone I knew I would weep.

I know that if I keep working at this that in a few weeks I won’t notice so much anymore, that I’ll be hardened, that it won’t be such a shock. And perhaps I should be thinking that these people are at peace now, met their Maker, out of pain.

But tonight, Death is not pretty. Or a release. Tonight, death is paperwork. Tonight, I’ve more than two hours to go.

15 comments:

crazymumma said...

some might argue that death is all paperwork. Like taxes.

I like your music quote under your name. I was listening to it today and feeling it heavy.

Ree said...

Oh my. I don't think I could do it.

Molly said...

My mother in law has brought us very close to what you're talking about a few times recently. She in so frail and fragile and weak---and still has the cleanest house in the US of A! Somedays I think it won't be so sad when she finally goes because she'll be out of pain. I'm glad you're not hardened yet. A recent short stay by M-I-L in the hospital demonstrated just how unconcerned some of the people who work there are. It's sad to get to a point where you think of another human being as Bed A in room such and such....

Sue said...

:-( I'm sorry.

I don't think I could do that job, I would not want to 'harden'.

Mamalooper said...

Your job made me think about how along with all the emotion and drama of a death comes the administrivia of it all - someone like you (and luckily someone with a big heart) must make note of the person's passing.

This is an honourable thing you are doing.

witchypoo said...

It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it? I hope it doesn't weigh too heavily on your heart.
So thrilled you ditched word verification! Thrilled I tell you.

Don Mills Diva said...

I guess until you do a job like that you never consider the administrative details that accompany death - you're doing a difficult but necessary thing.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I can only guess at what you must feel when you go through the lists. It must be particularly hard when you come across children or sudden death cases. Imagine those responsible for the lists of those killed in the genocides of Rwanda, Cambodia and others.

The nearest I came to this was working as a volunteer during the Vietnam boat refugee crisis in the 1970's. My task was to match requests for information on missing loved ones with names from the refugee camps. It was demoralising cause in the couple of weeks I was there, I went through a couple of thousand requests but did not find a single match.

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

I can only guess at what you must feel when you go through the lists. It must be particularly hard when you come across children or sudden death cases. Imagine those responsible for the lists of those killed in the genocides of Rwanda, Cambodia and others.

The nearest I came to this was working as a volunteer during the Vietnam boat refugee crisis in the 1970's. My task was to match requests for information on missing loved ones with names from the refugee camps. It was demoralising cause in the couple of weeks I was there, I went through a couple of thousand requests but did not find a single match.

paper napkin said...

Geez-O-Pete that would be depressing. I hope you're able to do something kinda fun when you get home.

amyjosjo said...

I don't know, death becomes very strange after a certain age...I find myself drawn to the obituary section more often than not looking for a mimi saga that once was a life. Ever since my dad died and my mom aquired her brain tumor it all has become very real to me. I often wonder what people would think if they knew that I was a faithful reader of the departed....mmmmmmm best not bring it up.

meggie said...

It would make you glad to hug your warm husband & children close!

womaninawindow said...

hum, my husband and I were just talking about this, all of the people who work around death. It's so interesting and yet so overwhelming. Stop looking at the spaces!

kittenpie said...

My dad was an CCU nurse, and said that some people found all the death really stressful, while others learned to view it as just helping people make their exit as easy as possible, to not attach emotion of loss to it, but focus on the job part of it. He did that well, I guess, and managed to work there for a long time, but I'm not sure I wouldn't get pulled into every story, too.

Erin said...

Yeow, Jess, that's some job you've got there.

I would be totally drawn in by the stories, too. I'd find myself wondering about the backstories to the incidents leading to the demise of the patients.

Heh. I totally just started to sign this as if it were a ChaCha text. Guess I've been working too much!