She is asleep with her mouth open, so Geoff sits down quietly and watches for a bit. At 92 she still has some of her own teeth but the interior of her mouth has that glazed look that comes with age, and with candida.
Geoff is a GP from the pages of One Night at the Jacaranda. He can’t help making these observations.
Grandma stirs, and soon she’s sitting up yelling for the nurse. “I’m in agony” she’s saying as she jabs the bell repeatedly. “I’m in agony” she repeats to the rest of the ward. The three other old ladies appear to have heard this before.
Today Geoff had to put on a mask and gown before entering the ward. Some nasty germs have been isolated on the unit, but high bed occupancy means it can’t be emptied and deep cleaned. He’d asked a nurse which germs, and got a shrug by way of reply.
The lunch tray arrives. It looks vile, all that sloppy food designed to slip down elderly gullets. “Feed me” demands Granny.
She watches Geoff with beady eyes as he spoons some of the beige slurry into her mouth. That’s probably where the germs are, he thinks. After a couple of mouthfuls Granny has had enough. She’s staring at his head now. “I like your hair” she says and reaches out to touch it.
She reminds him of Davey. She might like to see her great-grandson again, but hospitals aren’t good places for 5-year olds, unless maybe they’ve got Henoch-Schonlein purpura.
There’s a miniature Christmas tree on the bedside locker. “It’s nearly February” Geoff points out. “And you’re Jewish.”
“I’m 95 now” Granny replies with impeccable logic.
A nurse comes in, switches off the call button and offers Granny tablets for pain. Which Granny refuses, saying she’s fine.
The nurse then rearranges things at one of the beds. Geoff notices that she hasn’t bothered with a mask, gown or gloves. She senses his stare and says “I’m not touching the patients.” The nurse probably wouldn’t believe it if Geoff told her that viruses and bacteria can live on call buttons, beds and bedding.
“The priest came to see me” Granny tells Geoff.
“Because I’m getting married, of course. To Marvin.”
This is news to Geoff. “Do I know Marvin?”
Granny swats at him with a bony hand. “Of course you know him. He sits next to me in class.”
She’s gone downhill faster than he thought. Only last week Geoff was thinking of testing her with the SAGE questionnaire for cognitive problems. He hasn’t used it on patients yet but it looks a useful test, with low false positives, and no copyright issues, unlike the MMSE. But not much point trying it on Granny any more. Although her mental state fluctuates from day to day, she seems proper demented now. An MRI of her brain would probably look like cheese.
Now she says “Make me comfortable.”
The nurse has gone, so Geoff tries adjusting the hospital bed. It has lots of buttons. Granny develops a liking for the buttons that controls the foot end.
No harm in that, thinks Geoff. After she raises and lowers the foot of the bed about a dozen times, he remarks that it’s just like a see-saw.
She gives him one of her stares. “You’re really very stupid.”
Before Geoff leaves, he asks if Marvin’s going to visit.
“Who’s Marvin?” replies Granny.
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