|Jocelyn Klaes || Hel (tohelandback) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-07-12 11:27:00
|Entry tags:||apollo, hel|
in the end, as you fade into the night
Who: Jocelyn and Lucas
What: After nearly two months in town, it’s time for Jo to get back to work.
Where: LA County Hospital
When: Thursday, July 6
It had been months - nearly half a year, actually - since Jocelyn had last been a patient at a hospital, but within moments of entering LA County Hospital, the sharp scent of chemicals and the low but insistent noise brought her back to those days as if she had never left. It didn’t quite stop her in her tracks; thanks to the training her new employer provided, she had spent quite a bit of time at another facility. But the energy of a major hospital was much different than the sleepier vibe of the string of long-term care facilities and nursing homes she was normally expected to visit.
In fact, it was mostly due to convenience that she had chosen to come here today. She had made an appointment to follow up with a doctor at the burn center here, and the list of clients had included one who had recently been transferred up to LA County from a local assisted living facility, for reasons she was not privy to. By combining the two, she could take less time off from work, and avoid getting tied up in traffic.
At the moment the elderly man was sleeping. Jocelyn sat by his bedside, his hand held between hers, the book she had been reading aloud to him draped across one knee. It was a peaceful moment, the whir of the machines singing counterpoint to the low conversation of staff in the hallway. Despite that, there was a feeling of unease that she couldn’t quite place.
Lucas was finishing his rounds for the day, with one stop left before he clocked out. Mr. Szabo had been transferred to his care yesterday when he began declining rapidly with no apparent cause. The man had been healthy and active just three weeks ago, playing with his grandchildren when they had been visiting, but his sudden downturn had taken his family by surprise. Lucas had taken one look at him and ordered the tests to confirm what he already knew - cancer. Specifically pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver. The man had days, maybe a week.
It was never easy for him to admit there was nothing he could do, but he knew there were limits to his abilities. He wasn't a god, after all, he told himself.
He was just turning into the man's room when he stopped short, watching the woman sitting quietly by his bedside. He studied her face for a moment before making his presence known with a respectful knock on the door. “I don't want to startle you,” he said softly, “I'm just here to check on him.”
Jocelyn carefully tucked a bookmark in the book and set it on the seat behind her as she rose. “All right, Doctor” she said with a smile. She moved towards the door, but stopped when she realized that she couldn’t get out without bumping into the new arrival. “I’m just going to take a walk down the hallway then, and give you some privacy to work.”
He shook his head before she left, “you don’t have to leave; are you family?” he asked softly. His gaze briefly flickered curiously to the obvious burn scars on her face, but then politely shifted back to her eyes, a soft but respectful smile on his face. He stepped aside though, in case she did in fact want to leave, and then slowly headed towards the patient’s bed to pick up his chart.
She shook her head. “No, I’m not family. My name is Jocelyn Klaes. I’m from the Society of Saint Francis of Assisi.” She smiled brightly at him. “I’ve been carefully trained on patient privacy, I assure you! There’s no need for me to be in here while you work. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She tipped her head at him and disappeared out the door on nearly silent feet.
Lucas smiled and watched her go, and then continued on with his assessment, putting the chart down and proceeding to have a look at the patient’s current vitals. As he was assessing him, Mr. Szabo woke up briefly, so Lucas was able to assess his pain level and adjust his medication accordingly. After about five minutes chatting with him, he left him to go back to sleep, but not before the old man asked if that nice girl was coming back to read to him. Lucas smiled and told him he’d seek her out for him.
Just outside the door he stopped to look around and then spotted Jocelyn nearby. He headed over to her with a smile and caught her attention. “You’ve made quite an impression on him,” he said, standing next to her down the hall. “He’s asking for ‘that nice girl with the pretty voice who reads to me’. I’m guessing that’s you.”
“He’s a sweet old man,” she said, as she leaned against the wall. “Sometimes the people I sit with are...ah…” she shrugged helplessly, as if she wasn’t quite willing to finish the sentence. “Well…you work with patients...I’m sure you know how it can be, Doctor…?”
“...Peters,” he finished for her. “And yes, some palliative care patients - or any patients, for that matter - can be a little...difficult,” he said diplomatically, although he had read her meaning loud and clear. “It makes our job harder for sure but I understand them.” He paused for a moment and leant against the wall next to her as she did. “These people are staring down death; I don’t know that I wouldn’t react any differently had I lived their lives and was facing what they are now. I just...have to keep reminding myself every time I have a difficult patient.”
He looked down the hall towards Mr. Szabo’s room and smiled sadly. “John has good people who care about him, and he’s lived a life he’s proud of. So he has the luxury of exiting this life with far more grace than most.” He’d broken the news to his family a few days ago by phone, and the pain in his son’s voice was terrible. He and the extended family live and work in England, but being on limited means, they were unable to make the trip back to the States twice. Most of his patients had loved ones who cared about them, but he knew right then that...this man was loved.
“When I was in the hospital last year, the volunteers who came and kept me company really made the difference. I’m glad I get the opportunity to pay that forward.” She glanced down towards Mr. Szabo’s room. “It was hard enough to not have family around while I was going through all the surgery; being alone at the end...I can only imagine how hard that would be.”
Lucas nodded in understanding, though kept his curiosity about Jocelyn’s hospital stay to himself. “What you do is a great kindness, to the people who need it the most,” he said with a smile. “I know that he appreciates it, and I’m sure so do the other patients you visit. It’s a rare gift, to be able to comfort someone who is dying.” It was actually something that he struggled with himself. He had very little experience with losing patients, beyond those like Mr. Szabo who are advanced in age and more or less ready to pass on. Death didn’t bother him; it was a natural part of life. But a death that he could have prevented…that bothered him.
She smiled wistfully. “We try our best, Doctor Peters.” She glanced down the hallway again. “I should get back in there, if he’s been asking for me, but…” She hesitated slightly and reached into her purse. “Most of our - I hate the word “clients,” it seems so cold! Anyways...mostly I end up seeing people at the long term acute care and nursing homes and so on; I don’t get up to the hospital much…” Her face flushed slightly, as she realized she was starting to babble.
“Would you take my card? If you find you have another patient like John, we’d like to help.” She pulled a business card out of her purse and held it out, just far enough to offer without seeming to demand.
He nodded and took her card when it was offered. “Thank you, I will definitely keep you in mind,” he replied, slipping the card into his pocket. “I won’t keep you; I’m glad that he has someone to visit him besides his doctor.” He gave her another friendly smile.
Jocelyn turned and slipped back into Mr. Szabo’s room, her apology for taking so long dying on her lips as she saw that the man had slipped back into a peaceful doze. She retrieved the book from her chair, and sat back down, taking a moment to check her phone and make sure that she hadn’t gotten any messages from the office. Seeing none, she tucked the phone away and settled in to wait a while longer.
Some time passed, and the old man stirred and looked over at her, his eyes still half-glassed over from sleep. "Penny?" he asked, in groggy confusion, one hand reaching out to rest on the rail of the bed.
Jocelyn reached out and covered his hand with one of hers. "Mr. Szabo, it's Jocelyn," she reminded him, gently.
"Oh..." he sighed softly, his disappointment obvious. "For a moment...you look so much like her." His hand slipped out from underneath hers as he relaxed back onto the bed, and for a long moment, the two sat in silence. "She was quite the gal. Met her when I was in Korea. Real angel of mercy - she would have liked you, I think."
Jocelyn smiled. "Will you tell me about her?"
For the next hour and more, Jocelyn sat by the man's bedside, hearing the story of his time serving in the Korean War, and of the nurse he met there - his first love, whose memory remained uneclipsed despite the intervening decades and all the life and love and happiness that those years had contained. He never said what happened to Penny, and Jocelyn never asked - certainly there were any number of tragedies occurring during a war that could have befallen a nurse on the front lines.
Finally he fell silent, a content smile on his lips, eyes drooping with the need for sleep. The hospital's general visiting hours had long ended, and Jocelyn silently thanked whoever had decided to let her stay just a while longer. She thought she should get up and leave, but a strange unease washed over her, and she stayed still, her hand once again covering his.
It was only a short time, no more than a handful of heartbeats, when it happened. If asked, Jocelyn would not be able to say how she could tell, but one moment he was there and the next he had gone. There was no screaming heart monitor to announce his passing, no crash team running to wrench him back to life, not in this quiet wing of the hospital. Jocelyn released his hand, resting it gently on his still chest, and quietly left the room.