In Sept 2014, Anna fell off his bed. We looked for cuts, bruises, swelling, redness, tenderness, etc. but there were none. Over the next 48 hours, Anna became increasingly disoriented and unresponsive, till finally, I got the panic call. I rushed home (a one and a half hour drive), to find him catatonic.
Anna was admitted to hospital immediately. All medication was stopped and he was put on a drip. I spent the next couple of hours, leaning over his hospital bed, calling out to him, hoping for a response. After a couple of hours, Anna finally responded.
Me (wondering why he is thinking of euthanasia): No Anna. I think euthanasia is permitted only in a few countries in Europe.
Anna: No. You are wrong. It is now permitted in India for people who are terminally ill or are like me. Pause. We are here at the new facility on the banks of the Cauvery river.
Me (I reach out to hold his hand): Anna, why are you thinking of euthanasia?
Anna: Sangeeta, I am on pallet number 108 on the conveyer belt. In the queue to the oven.
Me: What conveyer belt, Anna? The word "oven" does not even register with me!
Anna: The conveyer belt pallet I am on now. Why is it moving so slow? The system of pulleys and weights are fantastic to see, but something is slowing the movement of the belt.
He explains to me that the system of pulleys and weights is incredible, state-of-the-art. Then he looks somewhere to his left, where there is no one, and asks, “Why is this conveyer belt to the oven moving so slow? Can you speed it up?” as if someone is standing next to him.
Me: Anna, you are in a bed. In a hospital.
Anna: No I am on a conveyer belt, moving towards the oven. Pause. You know, the oven slowly roasts a body for 30 mins and then converts it to ash. Can’t you smell it?
By this time, my heart is beating fast. I am frightened. My father thinks he is on his way to an oven to be cremated, and he is calm. I don’t know what to do!!
The conversation on the conveyer belt moving slowly and me denying it, goes on for some time, with many pauses.
Anna: See we are passing the chute from the oven.
Me (confused with this topic change): What chute, Anna?
Anna (looking left and down): Sangeeta, the chute that releases the ashes of the cremated. See!
My heart is pounding. I just keep looking at him.
Anna: Oh no! Poor man. He fell from the chute, but is still alive. He is not completely burnt!!
My pounding heart gets louder. My face is becoming hot. And I just keep looking at him.
Anna: Can’t you hear him cry? Help him Sangeeta!
Me (not knowing what to do): Anna, let me find someone to help him.
Anna: Help him, Sangeeta.
This goes on for some time. Anna asking me to help someone who has not been completely cremated. I am rooted to the spot next to his bed, squeezing his hand. The pounding of my heart is so loud that I am sure it can be heard at the nurses’ station.
Anna: Wake me up, when I am close to the oven.
Me: OK, Anna.
He reminds me a couple of times to wake him up before he gets to the oven. He does not want to wake up when he is inside the oven and cannot talk to me. I promise I will.
He finally falls asleep.
I continue to stand at the same spot, my hands on the side guard rail of his bed, tears in my eyes, my heart still pounding. I am not sure how long I stood like this. Must have been till my heart rate slowed down and I could move.
Thankfully, when he wakes up, he is no longer in the euthanasia facility.
Anna has hallucinations on other subjects and the duration of a hallucination can vary from a few hours to a couple of days. Most of Anna's hallucinations frighten him. They also frightened me.
Hallucinations normally happen in the later stages of Parkinson's Disease and may be a side effect of Parkinson's medication. During a hallucination a patient sees, hears, feels, smells, and can even taste something that does not exist.
It’s like being in an alternate world, experiencing it with all senses.
As a caregiver, all we can do is understand that a hallucination is reality for patients. All we can do, is walk the path of the hallucination with them. All we can do, is hold their hand and reassure them.