In this issue: Louella must confront and deal with her innermost fears during her hospitalization and recovery. Isabel and Micah discover a side of Louella that they have never seen before.
Life Without Louella – Part II
Louella Hightower Hess and Fannin County Hospital were far from a perfect match. Her annual visits to Stephen Stroup, M.D., her family doctor, were about as close as Louella had ever gotten to a medical facility since the birth of her daughter sixty years before. Louella had no recollection of ever being sick a day in her life, and she viewed her present confinement as a great imposition.
Louella would later describe the time she spent in the emergency room as “a bad dream” that just seemed to get worse as time passed. She had been sedated in the ambulance, and her first memories involved being poked, prodded and stitched up under extremely bright lights. Two hours later, as they wheeled her gurney from the emergency room toward the intensive care unit, the searing pain in her right leg had abated somewhat, and one of the nurses aides pushing her through seeming endless corridors was brimming with cheery, positive conversation. “Spare me,” Louella said, “I just want to get out of here!”
Luckily for the other patients in the hospital, after being released from a 24-hour stay in the hospital’s small ICU, Louella was assigned a private room on the ground floor, with windows overlooking a grassy area with white cast iron benches and a tall flagpole. Although she vaguely remembered a short visit by Isabel and Micah while she was in the ICU, Louella was already looking forward to their next visit with high hopes that they would be able to get her released quickly.
The phone line at Faded Glory Farm had been busy for almost an hour as Micah lifted the receiver again and again to make a call only to find Isabel talking on the Inn’s one and only phone line. He was just about to pick it up again when Isabel strode happily into the room smiling broadly from ear to ear.
“Micah, I can’t believe our good fortune! Reverend Calvin always says,”for every door that closes, a window opens,” and that appears to be coming true today! That was Mildred Hembree on the line, and I’ll bet you can’t guess why she called.”
Micah shifted his train of thought back from his frustrations with the telephone and said. “I can’t begin to guess, but my bet is that it has something to do with Louella.”
“Right you are, dear Micah; Mildred heard about Louella’s accident from Mae Tipton who works at the Hospital, and Mildred just called to offer her services for the next thirty days while Louella is out.”
“Can she handle the baking?” Micah asked.
“Mildred said that she’s willing to come in at 4:30 a.m. and stay until 8:30 a.m., but she wants to be home to get breakfast for her son Mark every morning after he finishes up in the hen house and get him out the door for his classes at college. As for the baking, Mildred is well known around here for her biscuits, but she claims that she couldn’t come up with a decent pie if her life depended on it.”
I think she’s just being modest,” Isabel replied. “We’ll just ask her to come up with layer cakes, cookies and brownies; they’re easy, and it’s only fo thirty days, for heaven’s sake.”
“And how much will you have to pay her?”
“Same as I pay Louella, $25 per day, with nothing extra for mileage,” said Isabel, now heading for the kitchen.
“Amazing how things all seem to work out,” Micah Intoned as Isabel disappeared through the swing door to the kitchen alcove.
Louella Hess, at 78, is a strong woman. More than once I have heard Micah refer to Louella as “a tree trunk of a woman, with a stout heart and a lovely personality.” Louella is all of five foot, two inches tall; not fat – just SOLID – with thick curly snow-white hair and striking clear steel-blue eyes. If you don’t know Louella, she initially comes off as brusque and deliberate; she doesn’t mince about or move in a ‘dainty’ way. Her approach is somewhat like that of a ‘china shop bull’ — “just move out of the way, Louella has a job to do, and she’s coming on through!” Those of us who have gotten to know her, have seen her soft and loving side; that of a person who would do just about anything for you if you were in need. Possibly due to her German heritage, Louella has two distinct sides to her personality, but she is the ‘real deal.’ Louella has always come across as a private person.
It was on one of her visits with Louella at the hospital that Isabel first saw and recognized the fear. Although Louella had been lucky not to have broken any bones in the crash, her doctor told Isabel and Louella that she might have been more fortunate if she had broken her right leg outright instead of incurring the sprains and muscle damage that she had sustained in the accident. It was obvious that Louella would be off her feet for some time.
Realizing that Louella lives alone and has no one to assist her, Dr. Stroup told Louella that he was making arrangements to have her transferred to Creekside Comfort, a local nursing home, for one month of rehab including daily physical therapy sessions. Isabel braced herself for the almost predictable reaction from Louella, but it never came. Louella listened, staring dejectedly at the wall as Dr. Stephen Stroup elaborated on the therapy and its positive merits, but Isabel could tell that Louella had stopped listening long ago.
After Dr. Stroup made his exit, Louella began to shake. Isabel had never seen Louella in tears before, and after Dr. Stroup left the room, she felt unable to conjure up the right words, or choose the right direction, to take.
Fortunately, Isabel didn’t have to speculate very long as to the cause of Louella’s angst, because Louella blurted out her innermost fears, some fears that had some credibility but were, for the most part groundless in light of Louella’s overall physical and mental condition. When Louella heard the words “nursing home,” she immediately suspected that, like so many of the people she had known, she would “go in, and never come out.”
She feared that because of her age at the time of her accident, she might not be allowed to drive again, and consequently would no longer be able to work at the Inn. Living alone with no living family, she feared that she would be left with no one to ‘take up her cause’ if her personal sovereignty was challenged by well-meaning medicos or the State of Georgia.
Even though she didn’t at the time fully understand the depth of Louella’s extreme angst, Isabel immediately grasped Louella by both shoulders and looked her directly in the eyes and said, “The only thing you have to worry about for the next thirty days, Miss Louella, is getting that leg back to normal and returning to your job at Faded Glory!”
This short confrontation most certainly didn’t totally quell Louella’s fears, but she was reluctantly agreeable to her upcoming transition to Creekside Comfort Nursing and Rehab.