Thursday, 2 February 2012

Community Care

As soon as big-name disease is diagnosed,
paid marauders prey on you...
Blundering among doctors and nurses  
who are attuned to their vocation,
who listen to patients’ needs
and not their own,
who see the line between medical
and personal,
are community healthcare practitioners
who recognize no boundaries at all.

   Uninvited acts of intervention,
home visits of disruption,
behaving as if divinely annointed
without the milk of human kindness.
Brash and bloated with job description,
Sometimes obese with clinical power,
they degrade the spirit of the dying,
while they’re still living,
and dumb-down death, aswell.

   The hospice that ensured she died
without dignity,
desanctified the end of life,
depersonalized the woman dying,
breached every clause of patients’ charter
hanging above their heads;
they didn't even get her name right,
or use a stretcher to carry her home.

Charity grown fat and smug
is as corruptible as pride.
Founded to do good, institutional rot sets in:
divinely ordained motives never questioned,
the only dignity they serve is their own.
No benefit to her, hijacked from home,
lured by promise of feeling better
to nutrition neglected, analgesic late,
a place where virtue nursed under cover,
cared in whispers, checking its back.

A nurse (broad beam, pincer mouth) ignores
her cries, her swollen legs and my requests.
I’m close relative/home carer in their way:
“You don’t need to visit her every day.”
But she’s my soul, and I’m her screen.
My calling to look after her; she calls for me,
sobs who has never cried before.
Times I’m not there to nurture and defend,
pious ghouls hover in the room,
wanting to talk of leading her to heaven
(At least that makes her laugh,
“I haven’t got the time; I’m going to the loo” )
Or a doctor, med school fresh,
breaks bad news to her with gruff hockey sticks,
undoes our sacred knot,
with unangelic annunciation.
You would not die gently now, stolen in sleep,
but, in the flare of knowledge,
you saw the features of the horror come,
and the ravaged world left for me.

More like a prison than a place of care,
they wouldn't let her home on the day
she wanted, tried to stop me going with her
on their patient transport.
They plonked her on a tumbril,
driven by two old men, lay helpers meaning well,

no wheelchair nor stretcher to carry her
at journey's end -

 “We don’t do lifting”, said a volunteer -.
they take her by the arms
and pull her up the steps,
a dying woman, gasping, weak, dissolving,
two days left to live.

No explanation when I complain
that rather than alleviate, they caused pain:
“We’re sorry you feel that way”,
corporate formula for non-accountability.
 “You need to move on”, they say -.
the modern lie that neutralizes everyone.
What they mean is: "We are a godly institution,

a charity with a royal patron,
you are wasting our time, you inconvenient little person."

Months later, locked out, pariah in the house,
tired of trudging wet hostile streets,
I found a better kind of community care.
My appeal for help
answered by the local waiter
and newsagent;
kindness of strangers,
other cultures' ancient hospitality,
no prying questions asked,
no judging or advice,
just let me be,
a fold of light in which to hide.
© Pippa Rathborne 2012