Last night, Jack died. Paul says it happened around nine. The shift was almost over. He entered the room to drain Jack’s catheter bag, saw him in bed unresponsive. Felt along the soft of his inner wrist for a radial pulse, his neck for the carotid. Alerted the nurse on the hall, who arrived and performed CPR.
It is a couple hours into my shift when I learn all of this. Casually, because Paul and I, the nurse who tried resuscitating Jack, are relaxing in the East nurse’s station. Word is spreading Jack’s daughter is in his room, devastated.
Everything was fine, says Paul. Jack looked good, his regular self, that afternoon during his bath. He ate all of his dinner. At bedtime, the nurse gave pills. By nine, his roommate Glen asleep in the other bed, Jack’s heart had gone quiet.
Word travels from down the hall his daughter is asking for something to pack with. Boxes. There is a brief scramble in the nurse’s station, all of us hunting, eager to help. Melody, the Director, is also in the hall, searching with us. There are no boxes anywhere. A nurse suggests garbage bags. I feel my brain somersault behind my eyes.
Melody gestures for me to follow her. We go to the kitchen, find three medium-sized boxes. She roots around in the walk-in pantry for more. With the aid of a food service worker, we find another usable, large box marked Frito Lay. The leftover, single-serving bags of chips are dumped onto the wire shelf. I see the oil stains on the inside of the cardboard and another sensation of being upside down, topsy-turvy and wrong, comes over me.
I am walking to deliver the boxes, joined by the nurse from last night who tried to save a life. Light conversation, laughter on cue. “That just didn’t seem right,” I say, referring to the suggestion we use trash bags to gather Jack’s belongings. “Kinda sends the wrong message, don’t you think?”
The nurse agrees, chuckles.