Mollie is in a bad way.
It’s been months since she could walk. She has been using a wheelchair, sitting up at her spot in the dining room for a good part of each day, and being wheeled to and from her room. At Christmas Carols last year, the former manager of our institution noticed that she seemed uncomfortable in the chair and instructed – right there, right then, with ‘The Little Drummer Boy” banging on over the PA system and hundreds of elderly people being herded in all around us – that a sheepskin pad to be put under her, as a precaution against pressure sores. As it turned out, the precaution wasn’t enough, and somehow she managed to develop a large, ulcerated sore on her bottom. A tiny sore, even a red spot, is a signal for complete bed rest for a couple of days. By the time this one was noticed, Mollie had to go to bed indefinitely. Several weeks and multiple courses of antibiotics later, the sore is showing no sign of ever healing. Presumably because of the pain, Mollie pretty well stopped eating for a while and though she is eating again now (we’re told), she is shockingly thin, and spends most of her time sleeping. She is now being given morphine for the pain, so she may be in a narcotic trance rather than actually sleeping.
On the weekend, Penny noticed that Mollie’s skin had a yellowish tint to it. Imagining that this could be a sign of something seriously wrong with the liver, she spoke to the chief nurse. When she said that her brother was in Europe and couldn’t get back in less than a fortnight, ‘Oh,’ said the nurse, ‘two weeks should be all right.’ This was the first indication from the nursing staff that death might be in the air. ‘How long would he be away if he didn’t interrupt his trip?’ the nurse asked next. When Penny named a date later in July, she responded with an ominous, sympathetic twist of the mouth.
She hardly vocalises at all now, and her facial expressions are hard to read, but she looks you full in the face, grasps your hand firmly, and sometimes reaches up to stroke a visitor’s face.