Thursday, January 14, 2010

Death Bed

There are tons of little things I have been meaning to post about work - like what I do, what I think about it, how its annoying me that the lunch room seems to get more and more busy at my lunch when it used to be peaceful, how my back has been bugging me. I never get around to it. Some of it is not worth getting around to, other bits are. But today I have a different work related topic for you all, and not a cheerful one.

Today, for the first time, I spoke with a terminal claimant. Most of my claimants have back pain or leg pain or psychiatric problems or chronic pulmonary insufficiency (bad lungs), or a bad heart. Most of them have some level of chronic problem that they have to live with, and if it is severe enough I help them get some money to live on. Today I spoke with a man who does not have a chronic problem he has to live with, he has a terminal problem he will shortly die of. He was literally in his death bed when I talked to him with cancer in his brain, spinal chord, lungs, liver, and many other places, unable to get up without assistance, no longer receiving treatment, and getting help from hospice.

What do you say to that? How petty does it seem to call up and ask him what he does on an average day and how long he thinks he can stand before needing a break? Needless to say I skipped most of the questions we are supposed to ask, they seemed entirely irrelevant. Normally terminal cases are fast tracked so that they can get benefits more quickly and be dealt with before the person dies, they go to a special unit that is expected to get cases out in 30 days or less (I operate on the 90-120 day schedule). I already suspected I did not want to work in that unit, and now I am sure.

Talking to someone who is dying kind of makes you wonder what you are doing with your life exactly, and if there is anything you can do that would make life feel less transient. I am not sure. Now reference the title of one my favorite books - The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and maybe you see what I mean.

Don't worry, I am not depressed or anything, just contemplative and wanted to get it out of my system. I wonder if you get used to it, and if that would be a good or a bad thing.

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