When you work in an Alzheimer’s ward, it’s difficult to determine whether or not a patient is telling the truth. Obviously there’s no malice intended if they’re lying; it’s likely they believe what they’re saying to be true. It’s the unfortunate nature of the disease.
A few nights ago, Madge Daniels started to complain about abdominal discomfort. We believed her. There’d been a nasty stomach virus going around for the last couple weeks. Madge’s overall lucidity was pretty good, too, so we did our best to make her comfortable and ensure she was getting a lot of fluids and adequate rest.
The next morning, Lou Franks, Ray Davis, Melinda Renz, and Veronica Auster-Coates were complaining about their own stomach pain. We gave them a once-over. They seemed fine. We figured they’d heard about Madge’s problem and believed they were experiencing it, too.
By noon, the whole ward was complaining about stomach problems. Some were obviously legitimate, since some of the residents had forgotten how to use the facilities and we had to change them, but with the others, we assumed it was phantom pain.
The following day, Madge Daniels was found dead in her bed. Her roommate, Elizabeth Fong, said Madge had been having terrible nightmares all night. The state of Madge’s bed seemed to verify that claim. The sheets and blankets were torn off and Madge was clutching the pillow in a death grip. An autopsy was scheduled for later in the week.
The reports of stomach pain began to dwindle. Only three residents were still complaining, and they were legitimately sick with that virus. Nightmares were the new thing. Everyone was having them.
If you were to walk into the Alzheimer’s ward at 3am last Friday, you would’ve thought you’d entered a torture chamber. The agonized screams of the residents as they encountered whatever demons haunted their dreams were hideous and disconcerting. Some had torn out their fingernails as they clawed at the bedclothes while others had fallen while attempting to leave their beds. It was a terrible scene.
Two nights ago, Veronica Auster-Coates began to talk about stomach pain again. The nurse was about to shrug it off, but she could see distension in Veronica’s abdomen, even under her nightclothes. An exam was ordered, and emergency surgery followed. A mass the size of a basketball was removed from Veronica’s ovary. There had been no indication of this mass at her most recent physical examination two weeks ago.
The nightmares continued. Doctors and nurses began to grow concerned. The violence of the dreams was unlike anything they’d encountered in the past. While the disease can cause vivid nightmares, these were unusual both in their severity and frequency.
Yesterday morning, Madge Daniels’ autopsy was conducted. Her life had been taken by a massive stroke. That was not the unusual discovery.
Madge, who had gone through her 74 years of life without even needing glasses, had developed severe, burn-like scars on her eyes the night of her death.
Yesterday afternoon, the dissection of Veronica Auster-Coates’ ovarian growth was completed. It was filed as a rapid growth of carcinogenic cells, but no explanation was given. No explanation existed.
Last night, the power at the hospital went out. The backup generators did not kick in. I was out having a cigarette with the janitor on the roof when it happened, and we both saw diffuse, orange lights darting back and forth above the clouds. The moment they disappeared, the power came back on.
This morning, the hospital is on lockdown and the Alzheimer’s ward is under quarantine. All the residents woke up with burns which had destroyed their eyes. All the residents have basketball-sized distension of their abdomens. Further, the growth which had been excised from Veronica Auster-Coates is missing from the laboratory. The final straw, which prompted the lockdown of the hospital, was the discovery of the corpse of the lab technician who had been studying it.