Sunday, April 4, 2010

'Ain't but one way to die.'

Great trip to the left coast, in all its sea-sodden, sun-blasted weirdness. Two states, indeed, if not three or four. Hung w/ Auntie Linds in Oakland, walked her neighborhood and dug it; visited Chez Metcalf, in all its creative-sodden, mind-blasted weird greatness. And chickens. Michael & Carol were amazing hosts, as ever. Road trip in back of windowless panel van to LA. Felt like a gringo in reverse.

Dog world, weird and bitter and pathetically awesome as ever. Met lots of virtual acquaintances; saw lots of on-goingly poor training and weak conception of training; had some laughs and learned some stuff. Didn't get hurt. Ran my old ass off, playing the fool and dancing with some dogs. Good stuff. Especially the didn't get hurt part.

Missed the girls a great deal; saw many things I wanted to share w/ them. Took lots of small photos. Not the same, but it's close.

Bad fire at work while I was off-shift. Likely no smoke detectors. Much as the profession has slowed down in the past two decades, causing our 'irrelevancy' to bureaucrats, the advent of smoke detectors has astronomically reduced fire deaths, injuries, & damage. These poor folks were dead before the firefighters even arrived. Very sad.

Spring seemed to be releasing the kracked-un's... Busy Saturday at work. Lots of difficulties breathing, largely due to excess smoking and/or drinking. Early in the day we were called to an apartment for someone having breathing difficulties. Call came from a nephew off-site, who said his uncle was having trouble breathing AND that he'd likely be unhappy to see us. We met a 64 year old man in his underwear, still in the vicinity of influence from the 40 oz bottle and the brandy on his nightstand. He has COPD, lung cancer. He has a host of proscribed meds & inhalers. His lungs were tight, constricted. He militantly refused care, adding he took his inhalers but they didn't make any damn difference. We had a very senior pair of medics arrive, and they, rather than get controlling or confrontational, were quite rational with the man. They explained he was making his quality of life worse, and that it was a horrible way to die. The man demurred.
After a couple back-forths along these lines, the man interjected, 'Ain't but one way to die! Only one.'
'Are you saying you want to die, Sir?' the medic inquired; if he stated yes, we could take him on a psych hold (although we all knew the struggle to 'help' him would possibly cause him to go into respiratory arrest).
'Hell no. But we all got to die, and there ain't but one way to do it.'
'Well, Sir, you are choosing to ignore medical advice, but you are a man in your own home, and you're relatively sober, so we'll have to leave you here. When it gets worse, you're welcome to call us back. We will come, and we will try to help you.'

The man picked up the phone, dismissing us with a wave, and proceeded to call and chew out his nephew.
He had a point. He also was wrong, but I think he knew he was wrong, and in that fatal acknowledgment, he was thus correct.

I am continually stunned by how remote the life/death process is from most people. My mother-in-law insists her doctor is impressed by how healthy she is--though I suspect she's omitting the qualifier 'for someone who should be in an iron lung.' She knows her incessant smoking is horrible for her, but she persists, hoping--I suppose--she'll outlive the statistics, or she'll slip away quietly. She might, but odds are better that she'll suffer a stroke and its devastating, debilitating consequences. There is a long, long, hard way between living and dead.

We were shaking our heads at his stubbornness and at his plight as we left. I pointed out that it was bracingly more honest than all the people who continue to eat poorly, smoke too much, and juggle their meds, then insist on calling us at all hours because they do not feel well. No shit you don't; and, what do you think we're going to provide you that might trump your own derelictions?

And so it went. Spring and all.

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