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45 or Die
By Dallas Hall
The administrator had it removed. When
we asked why, we were told it was policy. A patient’s
medical condition couldn’t be made “public knowledge”
due to laws about confidentiality. Understandable;
nevertheless, I did see several signs throughout the
“Oxygen In Use”
“In Isolation-Do not enter”
Why would one that merely stated, “Please keep head at
45°”, which was written by the charge nurse under a
doctor’s direct order, be any less significant?
It wasn’t. Many elderly patients are unable to
speak for themselves, and family members are often
unavailable, so it goes without saying that CNA’s
(particularly new ones) would undoubtedly appreciate a
little reminder that keeps them and, most importantly,
the patient out of trouble.
After a heated discussion, the administrator hung it on
the closet door (on the inside, mind you), and assured
us the staff would know where to find the instructions.
They didn’t. Most of the CNAs unintentionally forgot, so
Nannie’s head went down and her lungs filled up.
Ultimately, it wasn’t dysphagia that killed my
grandmother, but human negligence. With simple
precautions and proper treatment (such as medications,
exercises to strengthen the throat muscles, or surgery),
dysphagia is manageable and often curable. It’s just a
matter of deciding which one will make eating enjoyable
In the end, if my grandmother had been treated less like
a room number and more like a person, she’d still be
making me laugh with her funny wisecracks. (“If it was
raining soup, I’d be stuck holding a fork!”)
Nannie may have left this world lying on a bed, but in
my heart, I know she sped into heaven riding on her
motorcycle. She didn’t swallow her pride, but held her
head up high and that’s how I’ll always remember her.
Dallas Hall was born and raised in Virginia. She lives
in Boones Mill, a quaint town nestled among the
beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. She has a Bachelor’s of
Social Work and used her advocacy skills to be her
grandmother’s caregiver and, most importantly, voice.
She’s happiest when she’s writing (and drinking sweet