Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heroes Under a Ghost Moon

I saw a dead woman yesterday.

She was slumped at a kitchen table, surrounded by elderly women sitting at their supper plates.
Behind her, bent over her, Glenda the house aide jerked the woman’s body up and down, administering the Heimlich maneuver over and over again, yelling at her, “Stay with me, Jo! Jo! Jo! Come back!”
Arriving on this scene with my aged, mentally handicapped mother in tow, I was stunned senseless. Glenda yelled at me for help, sweat beading on her face. Jo’s body flopped like a rag doll’s.
In this house my mother lives with five others who are just like her. Jo is her roommate. Three demented women watched quietly as Glenda, her arms around Jo from behind, jerked and jerked and sweated and yelled.
I grabbed the phone, tried to dial, couldn’t operate the phone. In a thick accent Glenda cried out that Jo had had a stroke, and she had already called 911. Minutes passed. I fumbled with Glenda, trying to help.
I was confused. Why was Glenda doing the Heimlich? I felt Jo’s face. It was ice cold. She wasn’t breathing. Why was Glenda yanking at her body? Then I realized Glenda had said Jo had choked.
I took the phone after Glenda paused and dialed 911 for me. “Where are you?” I asked. The woman said they were almost there. A minute or two later, the siren blared to a stop in front of the house. I went out to get them.
The EMTs hustled into the kitchen, pulled Jo’s body to the floor, went to work. I took my mother into her bedroom.
“That is scary,” said my mom. “What’s wrong?”
A loud commotion went on in the kitchen. I explained that Jo was very sick.
The EMTs suctioned Jo’s throat and brought her back to life. Glenda’s unrelenting Heimlich maneuver had kept her alive, just enough. I went back in the kitchen, where Jo was breathing, slightly conscious, on the gurney. Glenda and I threw our arms around each other. “You’re a hero, you’re a champion!” I told her sweaty forehead.
As I drove home later, I was awestruck by the miracle I had witnessed. One woman’s tenacity, another woman’s life. I’m glad I was there to see it.

Ghost Moon

Over the black silhouette of trees against a purple sky
Slung low like the silver buckle of a cowboy’s belt
The moon rose, pale and faint and round, oddly
Opaque, as if with a hand you could wipe it away.

My old mother, with her fading mind, has the same
Translucence. Sitting in the car beside me, nodding
Vaguely at what I say, she waxes paler steadily
As she rises from herself, a ghost impression

Of the woman who raised me up, fierce and strong.
She no longer is substantial, just a wisp of breath
In a wizened body, silhouetted against the sky
Beyond the window of my car, my ghostly mother.

Chris Alba © 2009
Photo courtesy Georgia State University


Tall Kay said...

I have goose bumps from head to toe. What an amazing experience that must have been. Your words made me feel like I was there, witnessing the miracle too! Thank you so much for sharing this.

lakeviewer said...

Like Tall Kay, I'm still in shock too. What an experience!

Shadow said...

what a touching poem. when suddenly we realise the mother-daughter roles are reversing...

Susan said...

Wow! That's intense.
I worked in an ER for awhile, and have never gotten over the intense moments like that. Life is so fragile, and so tenacious at the same time.

Lou said...

Such a sad poem, but a universal feeling. I hope to go quickly and quietly when the time comes, but of course we all wish for that.

DreamDancer said...

I once was in a similar situation, having to perform CPR on an unconscious man at my Mom's place. Very intense! I'm glad to read that Jo survived her near death experience. The poem is lovely, but sad. How difficult it must be to witness the rendering of your mother's mind to aged disease. God Bless *hugs*

Steve E. said...

This time you were there to SEE it. Next time you may be there to DO it. GOOD POST!

"You betchum, Red Ryder"

Monkey Man said...

Your story and poem are both very alive.

Karen said...

Your poem is beautiful, and the experience you recount brings back one that still shakes me. I performed the Heimlich on my three-year old grandaughter this summer, and thank God, it worked. But it took many thrusts and prayers, and I can't even think what life would be if it hadn't worked.

the walking man said...

We all fade a bit daily and in that fading it is not life ebbing away but rather in my way thinking it is simply a new tide rising.

Be Well Chris.

Glynis said...

I enjoyed this, thanks for sharing.

Julie said...

I'm so glad Jo lived! I was reading the account while holding my breath. Glenda is my hero, and I don't even know her. What an amazing thing.

I also love your poem. The last stanza is so poignant and powerful.

Syd said...

I can imagine that feeling of terror. I felt the same as I watched the EMT's work on my mother and then haul her away on a gurney. It stays in my head. My mother didn't come back. I'm glad that Jo did.