Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Smell (the sense of smell) (07/29/10)
TITLE: The Nose Knows
By cheryl schoenberger
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The unmistakable aroma was intensifying as I scurried down the dimly lit east hallway. Maneuvering passed the obstacle course of wheelchairs overflowing with gray haired residents was a challenging task. A few of the scooting seniors recognized me and called my name as I hurried passed them. But today was different; I was on a mission.
I popped my head into room 120 and sniffed deeply, but to no avail. Frantically, I continued down the hallway, with my nose twisted in the air attempting to recapture the direction of the scent. I slipped in and out of room 125, but once again all was clear.
I was closing in on it though. The fragrance was screaming volumes to my olfactory senses as I approached room 130.
Mr. Wilson had resided in room 130 for the last ten years, ever since he was unable to recognize his family. At first, his daughter and granddaughter would visit every Saturday, evidenced by the handmade cards or chocolates found on the nightstand. But slowly as the severity of his Alzheimer’s progressed, his visits from his daughter decreased. This year, the obligatory visits were shortened to only five minutes on holidays to disperse any guilt.
I slowly pushed open the cracked door and entered the dark and solemn room. The suffocating scent was overwhelmingly pungent, but served to confirm that I was in the right place. I scanned the room and noted that Mr. Wilson was asleep with shallow respirations and an occasional deep sigh. But, more importantly to my assignment, he was all alone. Given the set of circumstances, I comfortably positioned myself on his bed and gently proceeded to stroke his arm.
“Nancy, I just noticed Oliver enter room 130. Isn’t that Mr. Wilson’s room?” I heard Karen inquire.
Nancy entered the room puzzled as she rushed over to check vital signs.
“Mr. Wilson, are you ok?” she asked attempting to elicit a response.
He responded with a loud expiratory grunt, as she gently shook his shoulder. Nurse Nancy’s concerned eyes locked with mine as she quietly left the room. An hour passed as Mr. Wilson and I rested peacefully without interruption. Only his occasional groan pierced the deafening silence in the room.
Then, without warning, the door swung open and in walked his daughter, Patricia, and little Christy, as prompted by Nurse Nancy via telephone. Patricia looked despondent as she tenderly caressed and talked to her father as his respirations became more labored and his heart rate irregular.
She began sobbing uncontrollably as she explained to Christy that I was in the room to help Paw-Paw go to heaven. Another hour passed as Christy sang songs to her grandfather and Patricia quietly held his lifeless hand, occasionally dabbing her eyes with Kleenex.
As time ticked on, they watched as the earthly life and color slowly drained from their seventy-eight year old loved one, as his soul yearned for eternal bliss. Both Patricia and Christy said their final goodbyes, as his heart rate and breath sounds were no longer audible.
I purred and patted his hand one last time as Mr. Wilson took his final breath.
After a three hour vigil, Mr. Wilson died surrounded by his loved ones. He was at peace with the One that had created him. My work here was done.
This was based on a true story. Oscar the cat resides at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island and has accurately predicted over 50 deaths.
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