Wednesday, March 16, 2011

fan mail

"I've been through it all, baby. I'm mother courage."
Elizabeth Taylor

"Full code? Really? Are you fucking kidding me?!?"

Dear Ms. Taylor:

I've been following, with some interest, the news of your recent hospitalization. First and foremost, let me wish you the speediest of recoveries, assuming you survive this admission.

Forgive me for being so blunt---this is my first letter to a celebrity, after all, and I have the social grace of roadkill. However, I think it's time that someone from the unwashed masses shares a fact as sure as tax collection: your CHF is going to kill you. If not now, within the next two years. (That is an optimistic number that I've pulled out of, as you Brits say, my arse.) I hear of your 'second month in hospital', and I picture others of your cohort, struggling to breathe, praying to make it to their granddaughter's wedding in June, or their 53rd anniversary next week, or to Christmas, or to tomorrow.

I think of a BiPAP mask cutting the skin across the bridge of your nose, and your thoughts every moment of ripping it off. I consider the pulmonary congestion, the daily chest x-rays, the barely concealed horror of every nurse that sees your ankles for the first time. I wonder how tired you are of every nurse, every shift, checking your butt for pressure ulcers. I frown at the idea of Cleopatra on a bedside commode with maximum assist back to bed.

I picture your violet eyes crossing when the BiPAP comes off and you get a little hypoxic.

And, since we're being honest here, I'm going to tell you: if you have any personality "quirks", well, it's being shared over report. Repeatedly. Someone who sees you naked daily probably speaks with at least momentary irritation about you and your hatred of oral care/ability to get out restraints/self-extubation/specific odor of your bowel movements/obsession with Pepsi products.

Ms. Taylor---Elizabeth, if I may be so familiar---Elizabeth, let's cut the crap. The ICU is no place to die. My own grandmother is dying of CHF. She was an ICU nurse, she knows she's dying, and yet she still practically told my mother to fuck off when Mom suggested she go to an assisted living facility. Grandma told her that she wanted to die in her home, in front of the TV. Get out of that shiny, decontaminated, tastefully decorated, well-staffed hellhole, Elizabeth. Die surrounded by the things that remind you of your admittedly kick-ass life; your family and friends. Hell, if it's all you have, your cat, sofa and TV. Put on National Velvet, hire some cute boy to rub your feet (tip him well; let's admit, CHF-affected feet are not "dainty"), drunk dial your exes that are still alive, and have a hospice or home health nurse come visit you. He or she will manage your air hunger, your diet, any wounds you might have, and possibly keep you company when you're feeling low. They'll help you make the most of it. Jesus, they don't even let you have a decent drink and cigarette in the ICU. Something about a "fire hazard" and "not good for you".

Go home, Elizabeth. Live in peace, like I wish the rest of my patients would do.

Your adoring admirer,


  1. You're righter than you know. For some reason where I croak became a concern after see some poor bastard in onco signing off the net while laying in a bed staring at the ceiling of his room. As for me, on my day shovel me into the drivers seat of a BMW on I-20 in southern CA. Put a brick on the gas pedal and aim me into the sun. Miss Liz has the money to arrange to go to a bawdy house and have a mile of meat lined up outside her door. Die doing something you love.

  2. Sorta like Hotblack Desiato! Nice way to go. You, too, can be dead for tax purposes.

    I knew she was probably gonna die, I just didn't think I'd get it so right.