During my stay at the Queensway Carleton Hospital, I have stumbled upon a most unexpected love story. I don’t know most of the details, nor should I, for it certainly is not my business.
The elderly woman I share my semi-private hospital room with (Katharine) is very ill. At first I thought she might have had a stroke. She sleeps most of the time. While she sleeps she seems to mumble off and on. It is impossible to understand her most of the time.
The hospital staff look out for her, seeing to it that she is cleansed, changed, and moved from one position to another. I suppose they are avoiding bed sores, she doesn’t move on her own. It is during this time that she is able to communicate “no no no no no…” she doesn’t want them touching her, she isn’t crying out loudly, it is just and endless stream of mumbles. The staff are used to the objections, but they carry on, talking her through it with kindness.
Every morning, Katherine’s husband arrives to visit her. He talks to her so gently and lovingly, encouraging her to “just take a bite” of the meal they’ve just dropped off. I am moved by his kindness and patience.
Afterwards he just sits with her and reads his book. The staff and volunteers have gotten to know him, and they ask how he’s doing and remind him to look after himself.
Yesterday I told him how I thought he was just so kind to his wife and I asked if she had suffered a stroke. She has Alzheimer’s, he told me. There wasn’t anything else to say except I told him that I was keeping an eye out for her when he isn’t around.
At the end of each visit, he speaks to his wife again. Every so gently reminding her that he will be back tomorrow, and that he loves her.
This is my first time witnessing the devastation of Alzheimer’s, it is a heart breaking disease. Let’s hope that medical science will one day unravel the mystery and give countless people their lives back.