A head’s up, this is not going to be a nice happy post. This post could well end with you thinking that I am a heartless bitch. For anyone who knows me, they will know this isn’t the case but what I’m about to say could easily be mis-interpreted. This is a post which I am primarily blogging for myself and because I have to get this out somewhere or it will just fester and eat away at me. Good day…
I have just done a flying trip to Scotland, Birmingham to Glasgow and back again, by car, in just over 34 hours. No, I’m not totally insane, it was my grandmother’s 90th birthday and to ignore that would be a bit of a crime considering I’m on holiday this week. So yesterday morning my mum and I set off for Glasgow… It was a relatively easy trip, little traffic so an easy drive and as Mum and I split the driving it was OK. The trip back was the same, it was just the bit in the middle which was tough.
To fill in the background, my grandmother is not a well person. More than the fact that she’s 90, she has very bad emphysema and basically has a permanent chest infection. If that was the only problem, we’d be golden! Because the thing that has caused the most problems, that has taken the most away from her, is not her inability to breathe: it’s her inability to see.
A few years ago Granny was diagnosed as having a disease called macular degeneration. I’ve read the wikipedia entry and I understood not a lot of it. The long and the short of it is she has become progressively more and more blind and whilst she retains a degree of peripheral vision, she is now essentially blind. And as much as the being completely unable to breathe is what will actually kill her, it is the the not being able to see which has done the most damage to her as a person.
My Grnadmother used to curl (random sport that involves sliding big marble stones across ice), she had dogs until she was in her mid-seventies and walked them every day (except when she got run over by a bus and broke her pelvis but I think that’s allowable) and that’s the woman I want to remember. She was fit, she was active and most importantly, she was happy.
The woman I saw today on her 90th birthday is alive in name only. She cannot do anything she enjoyed doing. She can’t read. She can’t do the crossword. She can’t sew. And with the emphysema, the only thing she can do is sit there as walking from one end of the house to the other (which we thank God is a bungalow) means she needs to sit down for half an hour with her oxygen. She is tired, she is miserable and you wouldn’t wish her life on anyone.
So we got there today and she was not well. She’s never well but she was even less well than normal. The doctor came out about lunch time and has put her on another course of steroids and antibiotics but considering she only finished the last course about three weeks ago, how much benefit she will get is becoming unclear. What we all wish, which is the thing that will make you wonder how evil we are, is that tomorrow morning, she just doesn’t wake up.
I don’t want my grandmother to die. What I want is for her not to be in pain. What I want is for her to have quality of life. But that is never going to happen, not unless they transplanted her lungs, eyes and ears (she’s fairly deaf, just to add insult to injury). So we ae left hoping that death comes sooner rather than later. And whilst that might seem horrible, for a woman who is as proud as the day is long, being unable to do anything and being reliant on others, and who is in constant pain and discomfort, death will come as a relief.
The question is, how old is too old? If she was as she was at 75, walking her dogs across the field, I would be thrilled and would want to keep her around for as long as possible. But does a point come where someone is old and ill and absolutely bloody miserable when the doctors should say enough is enough? All I know is that the woman I saw today was alive in name only and God only knows how long she will be forced to suffer before whatever the bigger force in the universe decides to let her go.