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An Occupational Hazard - 01/10/2021

Tomorrow night, the Alabama Crimson Tide will play Ohio State in pursuit of its seventh national championship under Coach Nick Saban, or as some call him in Alabama, Saint Nick. I had planned to write an essay this week about how you have to choose who you are for, Auburn or Alabama, when you move to the state, and why I'm for Alabama, and it was going to be a feel-good, rah-rah post. Then January 6th happened, and I thought about writing about the insurgency and how we should have seen it coming and how could we let this happen and blah-blah-blah. And then today happened. For the first time since I started being a caregiver for seniors, one of my patients died.

Bill's death was not entirely unexpected. When I met him a few weeks ago, as the live-in boyfriend of a new female client, I noted that he was on oxygen and did not seem to be able to do much. His color was gray, but other than that he didn't look too bad for a man in his late 70s. I spent some time talking to my new client that day about her family and where she and Bill were from. When she told me that Bill had grown up in Birmingham, Alabama, I was excited that we had something in common. I asked him if he was an Alabama football fan, and he said, "True story. First two words I ever said were 'Roll Tide'." We were fast friends from that moment.

I only worked with them for a few weeks. Ilene, Bill's girlfriend, decided that she really didn't like Tucson and wanted to move back to Michigan to be near her children and grandchildren. I had just driven her to Phoenix on Thursday to the airport for her flight home. I tried not to listen as they said goodbye to each other, but I heard her say, "I don't know when I'll see you again," and my heart constricted. They were both so old, when any goodbye is poignant. I came back to work with Bill on Friday. Per his request, I was going to help him out three days a week until he got used to living alone, with just his senior dog, Benny. It was a good day. We talked about the tasks he wanted me to do, and he expressed enthusiasm about being able to have his three children visit now that he had the house to himself. He was optimistic about being able to remain in his house for a while longer with my help. I did notice that he was coughing more than usual, and that when he did, there was a lot of blood. But he had emphysema, and he assured me that this bleeding was normal. Before I left, I asked him if he was sure he was alright, and he again said he would be fine. I wished him a good weekend, and said, "I'll see you Monday." I started to say, "Roll Tide," but it seemed silly since the game isn't til Monday night. "I'll tell him on Monday," I thought as I walked out the door.

My office called me this morning to tell me that Bill had died Saturday morning. I have no idea if he was alone, although I expect he was. I don't know who found him. I'm not sure who will be looking after Benny now that he is gone. I don't know who called Ilene to tell her that she would not be seeing Bill again. All I really know is that the nice man from Alabama, who asked my office if all my clients loved me as much as they did, won't be cheering on the Tide on Monday night. I realize losing clients is an occupational hazard if you choose to work with seniors. But it had never happened before, and I wasn't prepared. Life is so precious, and so fragile, and so fleeting. And I know it's too late now, but Bill, this one's for you, buddy: Roll Tide Roll.

#Alabama #OhioState #NationalChampionship #SeniorHelpers #Caregiver #Emphysema #RollTideRoll

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