Muffin was standing on the futon beside me, licking the perspiration from my face, each time I surfaced into consciousness. I was terribly thirsty. Somehow, with Muffin beside me, I rose from the bed and climbed the steps from my mother’s basement to the kitchen where I drank water—lots of water. Then I staggered down the stairs, climbed back onto the futon, replaced the CPAP mask, and again fell asleep. The process was repeated I don’t know how many times over two and a half days. Each time I returned to consciousness, Muffin was beside me.
It had begun the day after New Year 1998. Since I’d returned to
I had assumed from my Uncle John the responsibility for the care of my 89-year-old Aunt Lill. She had been in and out of nursing homes during the years I had been living in Louisville and Indiana. Uncle John, her youngest and only surviving brother, had arranged for 24/7 care takers in her home from an ever changing group he found through newspaper ads. Missouri
I would visit Aunt Lill a couple of times a week, doing her grocery shopping, arranging visits to her doctors, doing her banking, and being with her at times when her caretaker took time off. My relatives, including my mother, also visited her.
There had always conflict between Aunt Lill and the caretakers. Finally I decided that a job description needed to be developed for the caretaker to define duties and expectations on the part of both my aunt and her employee. So on January 2nd I informed her current caretaker that we would negotiate a job description after I returned from making a trip to the grocery. When I returned to Aunt Lill’s house, I found the woman had packed her car with her belonging and was sitting in it in the driveway. As I got out of my car, she yelled, “Your uncle said I’d be paid under the table. I’m not staying.” She drove away.
I was in a conundrum! I had no caretaker for Aunt Lill. So I began calling agencies listed in the Yellow Pages until I found one who said they could supply a caretaker immediately. The owner, who was also the intake worker, came to my aunt’s house and we signed a contract. I was told that the caretaker would arrive in a few hours. She didn’t.
Through whatever mess up the agency had, over the next three days no caretaker arrived, although I was promised time and time again that one was on the way. Meanwhile, I couldn’t leave my aunt alone, nor could I provide her with adequate care. For example, she would not allow me, whose diaper she had changed fifty or so years before, to change her diaper.
I could find no relatives to help with her care. And, without the CPAP, I wasn’t able to sleep. By the third day I was ill—seriously ill. My mother reluctantly agreed to exchange places with me. When I returned to my apartment in Mom’s basement, Muffin greeted me with obvious joy. Exhausted, I collapsed on the futon.
I have no idea how long I slept, but when I awoke I was shaking and covered in perspiration. Muffin was beside me, licking the perspiration from my face. Muffin stayed at my side. She was always there when I awoke, nursing me with all of the doggy skills she possessed. But my mind wasn’t working. I knew I was ill, but I didn’t know what to do about it. With Muffin at my side, I managed to make it up the stairs, drink water, take Tylenol, and use the bathroom. Muffin never left me.
At some point I located a thermometer in my mother’s medicine cabinet. My temperature was 104 (F). I was getting sicker each day.
By the third day I knew I had to do something. So I staggered to my car and somehow (the medical folks were amazed) drove the four or five miles to a 24-hour emergency medical center. At the center I sat in the waiting room for about an hour and a half before being seen. Of course, I was unconscious during most of the wait.
Within minutes of entering the examining room, I was hooked up to oxygen and an ambulance was called to transport me to hospital. I had an acute case of double pneumonia and was hospitalized for eight days, a remarkably long period I am told.
Meanwhile the care providers finally located someone to stay with Aunt Lill and my mother returned home. Muffin, however, was beside her doggy self. She refused to climb the stairs from my mom’s basement, she refused to go outside, she refused to eat. What she did do was whimper and howl continually. Evidently Muffin, my caretaker, was concerned about me. My mother finally telephoned my wife, who came to her house and calmed and fed Muffin.
When I returned from hospital Muffin greeted me as I imagine the Father greeted his Prodigal Son. And I greeted her as I imagine the Man Who Was Robbed greeted the Good Samaritan.