From the depths of her contorted and decrepit frame, the woman screamed.
Every time I touched her she would shriek in some unintelligible manner, her tone wavering and exhausted as the last bit of her breath was forced to the effort. She was a mess. 89 years old and more co-morbidities than I had time to count, the dialysis staff where we found her told me that she "needs to just die." ...But for some reason, she wouldn't. Not a DNR, not four times a week hemodialysis, not cancer, not massive systemic infections would finish her off. Instead, she sat there in her chairs and stretchers, writhing in pain and suffering through every minute.
Her family calmy watched from the waiting room. This happens all the time, they say, but they don't want to give her too many pain medications because she "isn't herself" when she's on them. They've been cutting her oxycodone pills in half with a butter knife at home and feeding them to this woman slowly, as they deemed necessary. I stared at them in horror as they relayed the story.
The woman had advanced dementia. She was weak beyond helping herself and wasting away in a slow, agonizing manner. What personality this woman once had seemed to be long gone, or recessed so deep as to never be recovered. In front of me was a bag of bones, a writhing shell of a person who once was. If there was any consciousness within that body, and if it had any sense at all, it was probably pushing from the inside desperately trying to escape as soon as possible.
...But the pain was real. It had to be. She yelled so loudly when we moved her that the nurses had to apologize to the rest of the patients in the facility. It was a harsh, agonizing cry, and even though it was technically unintelligible it somehow, through seeming urgency or subconsciously perceived texture, spoke clearly to all who heard.
Let me go, it said. Let me go.