The old man with Alzheimer’s who used to stand out by the road and watch the traffic go by isn’t there this morning as we pass. He hasn’t been out there for awhile. Ahead there’s a For Sale sign in the yard of the now vacant split-level ranch where for a time we used to get called at least once a week to pick up the woman with multiple sclerosis who often fell in the bedroom or sometimes the kitchen and needed our help getting up. I’m thinking about these people this rainy morning – thinking about how life ends and life goes on — as we respond for a presumption – a report of a patient who passed away during the night.
We enter the hundred-year-old house through the kitchen. On the wooden table there is a small bunch of yellow bananas in a white porcelain bowl. The kitchen is spare and clean. We go down the hall to the bedroom where the woman lies in bed. She is cold, stiff and peaceful. I run a six second strip of asystole and call the time. I learn from the officers on scene that the woman was eighty-seven, lived alone and had been in slowly failing health. Her daughter, who lives in Georgia, had been concerned that her mother hadn’t answered the phone last night or again this morning when she called to check on her. The police were sent on a welfare check. They entered the house by using the key that was kept in the watering can in the unlocked garage. I write my name, date of birth and license number along with the presumption time and hand it to the officer, and then pick my monitor up and swing it over my shoulder.
I walk back out through the kitchen, and then out to the ambulance. The rain has stopped and as we drive back to our base I see a hint of sun breaking through the clouds. All day long now I find myself thinking about those bananas. What’s going to happen to them? Are they going to sit in that bowl until they turn black and rot? Who’s going to throw them out? Or will someone take them home and eat them while they are still ripe?