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The Great House Fire of 2015

Attention Nurses!  There is an enormous difference between being a friend and being a nurse.  While staying with Lisa, I did things that would possibly result in a referral to Adult Protective Services.  Thank God I am not licensed in Florida.


Sammy Casper – Unofficial Guardian of Lisa and me.

Let’s start with the fire, shall we?

Every good nurse knows that it’s just plain dumb to smoke around oxygen.  There are No Smoking signs for the wall, teaching guides on oxygen safety, etc.  Open flames, as it turns out, are right up there with smoking around Oxygen.


Sam’s bestie. Equally as responsible as Sam for saving our lives. Don’t hate her keeping us in your lives.

Nobody was dumb enough to intentionally put Lisa’s oxygen cord in the candle.  But Lisa (and I) both like scented candles.  I, personally, would not put a lit candle next to my bed but Lisa finds it hard to get up and down so she left close by on the night stand.  A good nurse would have noticed and thought twice about that idea but I’m not licensed in Florida so I didn’t even notice it.  I was busy doing other things.

The candle finally came to my attention at just after 2:00 a.m.; or at least the fire did.  I was sound asleep and Lisa was yelling about something.  This is not new.  For as long as I have known Lisa, long before any illness, she talked, fought, screamed and laughed hysterically in her sleep.  When it didn’t quiet down after a few seconds, I asked what was wrong.

“I’m on fire,” she screamed at me.

Keep in mind that this announcement came from a woman who has told me to make sure the kids were not shooting guns in the house, that my lover deserved better and yelled expletives in her sleep to her family members.  This explains why I didn’t take her too seriously until well, I saw Lisa on fire.

I immediately jumped up as she hit the ground.  I thought she was doing that ‘stop drop and roll’ thing but she later told me she fell. Whatever.  At least she was no longer on fire when she got up.  I scaled her while she was still down and made my way to the bathroom looking for something to hold water. Nobody but Lisa’s is to blame for the fact that I could only find a lysol can.  Everyone in Lisa’s family is obsessively neat to the extent that they could be diagnosed with something.

I was trying to pull the cap off the Lysol can so I could fill it with water and Lisa, the one on continuous oxygen and gets short of breath just talking screams about how I shouldn’t spray Lysol on the fire and then throws the garbage from the trash can all over the floor, fills up the waste basket with water and drenches the bed, the carpet, the bedside table, etc.  Still the fire burned.

Allow me to digress for a moment and clarify that I had no intention of disinfecting the fire with Lysol.  As it it turns out, the ‘cap’ on the can of Lysol, isn’t actually a cap and when you do pry it off, there is a hole in it to allow for the spray nozzle to extrude.  I tried.  Okay.  I tried and I am not perfect.

We made the only good decision of the night when we both started screaming for her daughter, Sam.  It was Sam who thought that perhaps turning off the oxygen would stop the fire from burning.  Along with Sam was her best friend, Cali.  They must have had some sort of fire safety class in school because they were stamping out the fire and making everything all right again.  The smell lingered so we opened the sliding door in Lisa’s room and left the linens until the next day, or rather, later that day.

After the immediate crisis, Lisa was still very short of breath and couldn’t seem to turn pink again.  I told her that she just threw a bucket of water all over the place and it was understandable.  When she continued to sport that cyanotic Goth look, I followed her oxygen tubing right up to the point where it had melted.  Oops.  We were able to remove that half of the tubing and connect her back up to the oxygen.

There is now a fire extinguisher by Lisa’s bed along with several others scattered throughout the house.  There are smoke alarms.  Most importantly, there is Sam and Cali.

Yes, it is sad that two grown women have to rely on middle school students to be the voices of reason during crisis situations but these girls are smart and level headed and have gracefully taken on the role of raising Lisa and me until we are capable of taking care of ourselves.  Other girls who assume that kind of responsibility would be given awards.  When people found out whose lives they saved, they are merely asked why.

April 27, 2015

Home for a While

At the time I thought it was a horrible thing because my phone rarely worked at Lisa’s house.  Now I miss those days.  Every time I start to update Lisa’s story, the phone rings.  I missed my parents and had to come home to see them.

So, Lisa is up and down.  I am trying to get out of Baton Rouge and back to Florida as soon as I can.  I left strategically right before Lisa’s second chemo treatment.  I figured her Mom could do the second and I would return for the third.  The second treatment never happened.  She saw the oncologist prior to treatment and a CT of her chest was ordered and there was new growth all over the place.

I was so disappointed.  For the first couple of weeks after her first treatment, Lisa was far less confused and short of breath.  Her epic coughing fits had all but gone away and she was up and about more.  Of course, the treatment also made her lose a lot of extra fluid and maybe that accounted for much of it.

Tidewell Hospice has been called in and Lisa and her Mom like them.  Since admitted just over a week ago, Lisa’s Mom has had to call them a couple of times and they have been very responsive.  I’ve talked to the nurse, Tracy and she is a typical hospice nurse – an angel on earth.  I should be more grateful but I DON’T WANT HOSPICE CARE FOR LISA.

I knew when Lisa began the last ditch chemo effort that it was highly unlikely to be effective.  I am not dumb.  But when she started looking and feeling better, I allowed myself to be hopeful in a personal sort of way.  A good nurse would have been more objective but after the house fire, I am hardly in the running for Nurse of the Year.

I have never dealt with cancer on a professional level before.  All of my clinical background is with hearts.  Like the family members of patients, I, too have the internet.  I find myself questioning decisions that Lisa’s oncologist made.  Yes, indeed.  I have taken care of about five cancer patients in my life but I know more than the physician who is recognized as a specialist in Lymphoma.  Stupid doctor should get on the high speed information highway.

If there is any brightness in these events it is Sam.  Remember Sam?  She is the responsible one in charge of me and Lisa to make sure we behave like adults.

You would think I would be worried about her.  Sam had lived with Michael since she was five.  Now her mother’s health is not exactly optimal and the fact is that she could lose two parents.  She is fortunate to have a Dad who loves her very much and is capable of taking care of her.

Sam’s favorite subject is math.  She is good at it and thinks she might want to go into medicine but she doesn’t know about Medicare, yet.  I told her to go into engineering.  She is that special lethal combination of brains, beauty and determination.  Watch out world!

And by design or coincidence, there is always a text from her when I need it – ‘Luv u’ or ‘I misssssss youuuuu’.  Apparently, if you add a lot of letters, it is like making text bold in text town.

Sam’s sister no longer lives at home.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time with her and don’t know her as well as I do Sammy.  I had to throw that in here so she won’t feel left out.  Jessica, Sam’s sister is a beautiful young lady with an absolutely adorable one year old.

Something wonderful is bound to happen.  Statistically, this much crap can’t go wrong without some counterweight.  Maybe next time I post there will be better news and I will be cheerier.

May 17, 2015

A Whole Week of Lisa

The Queen Mother holding court.

The Queen Mother holding court.

In my list of all time favorite CD’s is Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen and Jennifer Warnes.  In the title track, Leonard Cohen writes that, ‘I hope you’re keeping some sort of record’.  This is my record because you never know when what seems inconsequential and unimportant one day may be significant another day.

The good news is that there is not much to record.  Lisa has been discharged from Moffitt cancer center and her care is now being handled by Tidewell Hospice.   Tidewell is huge but you would not know it from the care that is given to Lisa.  I may be able to get a hospice paid but I can’t do what a hospice nurse can do.  Tracy embodies the spirit of a hospice nurse along with the efficiency of a top notch executive assistant.  Tidewell is a large non-profit hospice that has a lot of impressive numbers but the one that struck me the most was that they have 800 volunteers.  I don’t know why but I liked that number the best.

Lisa with Tracy from Tidewell Hospice.

Lisa with Tracy from Tidewell Hospice.

Mother’s Day was difficult for me.  Lisa and her daughters apparently were not continually aware that it may be the last mother’s day ever with their Mom.  I was.

The thing is that I worked every holiday there was to work for a long, long time after graduating Nursing School.  During those years I had a choice to pout and feel sorry for myself or realize that I have a family 365 days a year.  If we wait until Christmas or Passover to let our family and friends know how important they are to us, we are doomed to have second rate lives.  Still, I couldn’t seem to get there in my mind last Sunday so my kid and I went to the beach and I prayed that I would see another Mother’s Day with my Mom and my son.

Three versions of Caspers - Lisa, Sam and Jessica.

Three versions of Caspers – Lisa, Sam and Jessica.

As usual, I got over my melancholy.

This week, Lisa opened her own bank account.  All her prior accounts were in Michael’s name or hers and Michael’s names.  They were shut down within a day or two of his death.  Who thinks of such things?

She also got her nails done.  Let me be frank and tell you that I do not feel comfortable in places where nails are painted and Lord knows what is waxed but Lisa had been wanting a mani-pedi for a long time.  I don’t fault her for that but when the manicurist asked in her cute little Vietnamese accent how she was doing, Lisa should not have responded, ‘Fine, except for a little touch of cancer.’

Something that truly amazes me is that complete strangers suggest cures that worked for a relative on a frequent and regular basis.  Some of them are science based but one poor lady at the nail salon went and got literature about a surefire cure for what ailed Lisa.  It was scientific literature, I will give her that.  The thing is, the science proved it did not work.  Am I the only one who reads?  Apparently not or you wouldn’t have gotten this far.

Check out the nails!

Check out the nails!

So, to be clear, I do not like nail salons.  I get my hair colored because there are several nursing homes in the area thatkeep trying to steer me back to the day room to play bingo if I go without industrial strength dye for an extended period of time.  I also don’t like being all sappy and sentimental like a girl.  Lisa and I are a lot alike in some ways but occasionally, it shows that she grew up with sisters and I grew up with brothers.  She cries and stuff when she sees that people have sent her prayers and well wishes.  A new FB friend, Heidi, travels the country in a truck and sends Lisa pictures far outside of the range of her oxygen tube.  More people than I can imagine have donated money to Lisa’s GoFundMe campaign.  Lisa gets all sentimental and stuff.

Lisa fully intends on saying Thanks to each and every one who donates but until she gets her sorry ass out of bed long enough to do so, I have to tell you what an incredible difference it has made in her life.

When I left here in April, the stress was palpable.  In case you missed the first part of Lisa’s story, the house she lives in belonged to her fiancé who did not update his will before he died in February.  Lisa and her daughter, Sam have lived here for 8 years but have no claim to the house.  The conditions that Mike’s Mom laid out were that Lisa could stay here as long as she paid the bills to keep the house running – electricity, water, groceries, etc.  The 40.00 in her pocket when Mike died did not go far.  Her Mom has been helping as she can because Lisa is not able to get a job.  Desperate for a solution that did not involve time and resources I did not have, I set up the GoFundMe account.

Lisa now has her own bank account.  The GoFundMe money is transferred directly to the account.  They promised four to seven days but it was in Lisa’s account within four.  Her bankcard arrived in the mail yesterday.  Tomorrow, she will be able to pay bills.

Who would have thought that paying bills was such a luxury?  Remember this the next time you go to pay your bills.  I know I will.

So, how can I thank you?  I wish I knew.  I hope that I am driving the Karma bus when you get what you deserve.  I would pick up everyone who has allowed Lisa to feel less alone and frightened and take you to a place of love and joy because you deserve no less.

Lisa, Brian and Sam on Mother's day.

Lisa, Brian and Sam on Mother’s day.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Shari #

    Big hugs to you and Lisa…always look forward to updates.

    May 17, 2015

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