Hospital Tales: "All The Single Ladies in the Mountains of Trentino"

I think a lot of people will know who you are.” remarks one of the sisters confidently. They speak to us in Italian with their heavy dialect accent……I don’t think they must speak Italian very often. They are friendly and warm, kindly enquiring how I am every morning and asking if I need help cutting up my prosciutto and bringing me a cup of ice cream.  They continue to softly chat, laugh and slightly argue amongst themselves about the age of “il Vecchio, Don Giuseppe.” I guess the concept of “vecchio” is quite relative if you yourself are 87. The two different hospital priests have been in to give communion a couple of times to my roomie. I also got a bonus blessing which I was grateful for as I was in a lot of pain that day. I have a spiritual baseline let’s say but I am not a churchgoer per se. I guess I am probably like most and when the proverbial hits the fan… I suddenly start “panic praying”.   The two priests chat amiably with me. One tells me his dream is to speak English well. The other tells me he has not skied in 30 years and clearly regards ski-ing as a dangerous pastime. From my hospital bed, post-op and with a titanium rod in my leg I can kind of see his point. I think I may have also acquired a bit of an “enigma” status here in the hospital amongst the staff. I don’t think they are used to foreigners that speak the language. When I start to speak…I am regarded with surprise and relief and “Ah! Ma, parla!” In between the red haze of the pain and the pink mist of the pain relief it quickly becomes clear that my roommate has had enough. Breathing, eating, drinking, sleeping, lying down, sitting up, everything is so difficult for her. She is suffering. She is also being poked, prodded, propped up and everything else undignified imaginable. Don’t get me wrong the nurses and doctors are very professional, patient and caring with her. The level of healthcare based on my experience in this hospital has been truly exceptional.  And so the nursing staff are doing their job to make my room mate comfortable. But, she has said a few times that she can’t take anymore. Today after lunch she clearly stated to us that she wants to die now. In my view she should have that option as a legal and moral right. Who knows how long this will go on for now? Her body has had enough, it’s closing down but her mind is still very lucid. This is pretty tough to put it mildly. Shouldn’t she be allowed though to “let go” of her own freewill in a dignified and peaceful way? I also feel like a rude intruder being witness to this lady’s discomfort and desperation and also these intimate moments with her family. The accident, the operation, the pain, the meds and missing my family are probably making me overly emotional and sensitive to this situation. But, dying this way is surely not right? What about a choice? A choice that is not about drawn-out suffering, indignity and loss of self-sufficiency. But it’s understandably “tricky territory” to say the least. Today my roomie has been boosted up considerably by a blood transfusion, some extra drips and some ice cream. She had a good night’s sleep and has been a lot brighter and more chatty. This morning she told me that she had been dying yesterday. But, there was no further talk of wanting to die today. This afternoon one of the sisters read us out loud an article from the regional newspaper about a local lady that had just celebrated her 107th birthday with her friends and family. After cutting the cake she quietly passed away. The sisters nodded in admiration and respect at this story and we all remarked what an incredible achievement that was and what a blessing “to go” so peacefully after a family celebration. I guess these “single ladies” from the valleys and the mountains of Trentino come from strong and stern stock. And with local female role models reaching the grand age of 107, my roomie née 1929, may well have some staying power for some time to come. I certainly hope so. ***** Emma Cuthbertson is founder and owner of La Piccola Agency, a boutique Marketing and PR agency based in Northern Italy.]]>

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