As Mother continued to tell me about herself and the others involved in Project Truth or Consequences, I became riveted. I let her speak uninterrupted, and she was right. Many of my questions were being answered and things began to make more sense. I listened intently as she went on.
“The Phin’s were in London for a summer workshop, but their home was actually here in Seattle. You’ll remember from the portfolio I gave you that Akin and Goro are medical interpreters. They work with doctors and other medical staff in various hospitals that need help communicating with patients whose primary language is Vietnamese or Chinese. The Phins speak both languages fluently, but English is their primary language. In addition, they are both Emergency Medical Technicians. You can easily understand why their skills are highly valued and greatly needed.”
Mother stopped talking long enough for the nurse to give her a sip of water. She seemed to be somewhat energized by telling me all of this, so we let her continue.
“About two years after I came with the Phin’s to Seattle, they found themselves in the middle of a nightmare. An elderly lady was brought to the hospital by ambulance. She spoke Chinese only. She was quite ill, but the Phin’s were able to get enough information from her to help the doctors make a diagnosis. She explained she woke up one day with a general feeling of weakness. The next day she had difficulty getting dressed. The weakness continued to worsen until she could barely summon the strength to get out of bed. Her neighbor found her on the floor. She was conscious, but very confused. It was the neighbor who called the ambulance. When asked, the neighbor said she didn’t know of any family members the hospital could notify. It was only after the poor woman died that it was discovered the reason for her illness and death was carbon monoxide poisening. An investigation uncovered that the poisening was not an accident. The Phins were made to feel responsible for not getting more accurate and substantive information from the patient which resulted in an incorrect diagnosis of a stroke. That’s where Jack came in.”
Jack walked over to the bed and took Mother’s hand. “I think you should rest, Claire. I know you want Kat to know everything as quickly as possible and she will, but neither of us want you to push yourself to the point of exhaustion. I think we should all take a break and have some dinner, and then, if you’ll agree, I will tell Kat the remainder of the Phin’s story later tonight.”
I could see Mother squeeze Jack’s hand. She nodded her head and when she spoke, she sounded tired, “All right Jack, but promise me you will come back to my room tomorrow morning. We can’t lose much more time.”
Doris served us a delicious dinner in the dining room. It had been an incredible, but long day and we were exhausted. At the risk of angering Mother, we decided to meet early for coffee in the garden. Doris said it was beautiful and there were several quiet places for us to sit and have a private conversation.
I was planning to spend some time in my room recapping what I had learned, but instead I practically fell into bed and immediately went to sleep.
I woke up early the next morning and after taking a quick shower, I went down to the kitchen to get some coffee. Doris wasn’t around, but I found everything I needed including fresh cream. As the coffee was brewing, I noticed the window above the kitchen sink was open and there was a soft breeze filling the room with scents from the garden. I got up and walked closer to the window. I thought I heard voices coming from outside. Yes…it was Doris and Jack, and they were discussing me.
“I don’t know if we should be involving Kat to the extent we are, Doris. We’re taking an extreme risk, here. What if she doesn’t believe in our cause. We could be risking all of the sweat and tears we have put into this project all because at this stage in her life, Claire wants to atone for what she perceives as wronging her daughter.”
“I agree, Jack. It’s a lot for Kat to take in. It seems impossible to explain all that’s happened to so many. Each person involved in the project has had a personal experience and offers certain skills to enhance what we’re doing. How do you intend to handle this? You promised Claire you would continue with the Phin’s story before going to her room this morning.”
I was concentrating so intently on Doris and Jack’s conversation, I didn’t hear the nurse enter the kitchen. “I’m afraid I have bad news,” she said. “Your mother passed away without warning…just moments ago.”