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45 or Die
By Dallas Hall

(Page 2 of 2)

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 building.

“Oxygen In Use”

“Hearing/Visually Impaired”

“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 again.

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 tea).

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