John and Mary

John and Mary are companions who met when they moved to the nursing home. Something happens to Mary that will change them forever. Names have been changed for privacy reasons. Nurses General Nursing Article


John and Mary

Mary and John are great friends. Mary is 94, John is 96. John still has much of his mind, whereas Mary has dementia that's been progressing a lot lately. They met when John moved to the nursing home about 2 years ago. They do everything together. Even nap on the couch and hold hands. It's so cute to see. Their children have accepted their relationship, but do not agree for John and Mary to get married.

Sundays are pretty laid back at the nursing home. Usually pretty quiet, and staff have more time to spend visiting with the residents. Except last Sunday was different.

John and Mary were napping on the couch as they usually do. John was getting chilly so he walked down to his room to get his sweater. I was on the computer doing some charting, when I noticed Mary stand up and start walking with her walker. She was limping a little bit though. I seen that she only had one shoe on and the other was on her walker. So I said to her "Okay Mary, let's get your other shoe on first if you want to get up and walk around. Okay now grab your walker and we'll sit back on the couch together" But Mary could only grab her walker with her right hand. Her left hand was totally limp. Then Mary started mumbling, and her words weren't making sense. Her breathing started getting heavy also. Then I realized, Mary is having a stroke. I've worked with a lot of stroke patients, but never actually witnessed one. She could not squeeze my fingers with her left hand. Her lips on the left side of her mouth didn't move when I asked her to smile. She could not follow my finger with her left eye.

I had my co-workers help sit Mary back down on the couch. I quickly took her vital signs (stable) and phoned the RN to come over and assess. Yes, I was right, Mary was having a stroke. We phoned her doctor to come see her (he happened to be on call for the weekend). We sat Mary in a wheelchair and took her to her room for when the doctor arrived. That's when John came back. I pulled John aside and explained to him what happened to Mary. He didn't really respond. He just looked at me and shook his head "It sure is cold in here isn't it?" Weird, I just told him what's going on and that's all he had to say? About fifteen minutes later, he realized that Mary wasn't around. So one of the other girls explained it to him. The look on his face was so sad. You could see his heart break.

Back in Mary's room, the doctor made his diagnosis. He said that she probably had a stroke, and if she gets better tomorrow then it was only a TIA (which is like a mini stroke). So we brought Mary back out into the dining room area where John was. He was so worried about her. She sat in her wheelchair, her mind probably in a different world and he just sat with her and held her hand.

Later on in the day, John was talking to us about Mary. He was crying when we talked. He caressed her hair and said "I think she is just so beautiful. She has been such a great companion for me. I never felt alone when she was around." To have a 96 year old man tell you this while he has tears running down his cheeks, just breaks your heart and it's so hard not to cry with him.

After lunch, we put Mary to lay down in her bed. I looked at her and said "Guess what Mary? John told me that he thinks you're beautiful" She smiled and said "Oh"

Once we had her all settled, we brought a chair for John to sit with her. My shift was ending so I went in the room to talk to John before I went home. I told him I'd be back in a couple of days. He still had tears in his eyes, and he looked at me and said "Do you think Mary will still be here? Does she know who I am?" I said "Yes John, she knows who you are. She is still here, and we have to be here for her to get better" John replied, "I know. If she doesn't make it, I told her I'd meet her again in Heaven. All we can do now is pray" Before I left I explained to John that Mary really needs him now more than ever.

On my days off, I thought about Mary. When I came back to work on Thursday, she was eating pureed food and thickend juice. She had to be fed by staff. But guess what, she could move her left side again! She didn't have her full mobility left, but she had some at least. I told John how that was such a great thing to see and how happy I was for her. But was I really happy? Yes and no. I was happy for her that she is starting to recover, but I was also sad because she's still not the same person and her quality of life isn't as great as it once was for being 94 years old.

That day, when we laid Mary down for a rest I talked to her about John. I said how lucky she was to have him as a friend. She looked at me and said "It's nice. I really like him. When you get old, it's nice to find someone who likes you back" Awe. That was such a sweet thing to hear her say.

Since then, Mary is still about the same as she was on Wednesday. She is not eating very well though. John seems very lonely. Instead of sitting with Mary for evening coffee, he sits at a table by himself and leaves as soon as he finishes his snack. I feel sad for him. I try spend as much time with him as I can, without forgetting about my other residents of course. And poor Mary is not the same. I suppose I'll end this story with a quote from John "All we can do now is pray"

1 Article   26 Posts

Share this post

Share on other sites
Long Term Care Columnist / Guide

VivaLasViejas, ASN, RN

108 Articles; 9,984 Posts

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

How sad......but how sweet. :redbeathe

My heart goes out to John and Mary, and to you for caring so much about this couple. Thank you for sharing their story.

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X