An unanswered call light

A few weeks ago, I woke at my usual time, 4:30 a.m., and turned on my call light. Two aides are usually in my room within a few minutes. But on this particular morning, they did not come.

As the minutes ticked by, I wondered if there was an emergency. I knew it was either that or an aide became ill, went home or was not able to be replaced, and the remaining aides were working short.

Looking around my dark room, I realized why children feel there are monstrous things lurking in the dark. All my senses were enhanced, and I have to admit my room felt creepy. My throat started to tighten, and I became increasingly anxious.

I was overheated and thirsty, and my room felt stuffy. I wear earplugs to block most of the intermittent nighttime noise. With earplugs in, I was unable to hear anything. My muffled hearing reminded me that I used to think wearing earplugs while sleeping was unsafe.

After 30 minutes passed, I thought the call light over my door burnt out. I wondered if mine was out and no one knew I needed assistance. Reluctantly, I began to call for a nurse in a loud, steady voice. I stopped after about five minutes.

I closed my eyes and prayed to keep my brain busy and calm my anxiety. I reasoned if the worst-case scenario had occurred, a death, postmortem care would need to be done before the floor returned to normal.

However, I knew if a resident had to be sent out, it could take more time. The police get here quickly, but the paramedics take longer. I prepared for a wait by putting my patience lever into high.

After 40 minutes passed, I thought more than one resident might be exhibiting behaviors. When that happens, all bets are off. It just takes as long as it takes. So I exhaled, inhaled and tried to fall back to sleep.

After 50 minutes passed, there was a knock at my door. I had admonished myself not to show aggravation and say, "Where have you been?” I suppressed my anxiety and said to the aides, "Are you okay?" One of them tersely said all of them, including the nurse, had been dealing with a situation and could not answer my call.

After they assisted me and left, I took a deep breath and relaxed. I realized there was no way the aides could understand how I felt while I waited for them to arrive.


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