As I walked into the patient’s room I became overwhelmed with the number of tubes, pumps and equipment attached to and coming from his body. I wasn’t sure whether to cry or faint. How on earth did science invent this all? How can we understand the body so well to make this all work? I wondered how many nurses, doctors, hours and minutes it took to attach them all. Every orifice was used, skin pulled and punctured and new holes were made. There were sounds and smells. A sucking noise, a pumping sound, and a loud bubbling as fluid drained from his chest into two huge vessels. There was little space in the room to move, each tube was attached to some complex piece of machinery laid on the floor or on carts, every available space in the room.
In intensive care his body was no longer working for him, he was simply one step in this complex tangle of machinery and equipment. My husband and I used to wonder why there was an ad saying “plastics make it possible”, now I understood, these tubes were keeping him alive. As we moved his heavy body, he was completely unaware of us being there. Where was his mind when his body was so obviously taken over? He was only 48 years old. As I turned to leave I was shocked by an equally moving site, dozens of colourful pictures, cards and letters from family members and work friends. “Get well soon”, “You can do it” they all said. There were pictures of him on trips with friends, at work, hugging and kissing, laughing, water-skiing and smiling. The image of his life as it should be was deeply upsetting to me and the nurse in the room. I wanted to cry again. I was glad to leave the room.
As I walked past the waiting room, it was filled with about 8 of his family members. They had been there all day; they’d made the room theirs with knitting, snacks and magazines all over. I wanted to know what operation he had, I found out from the nurse that he has just gotten sick, with what I don’t know. This again made it harder to handle, how could you get so sick to need all that equipment, surgery would have been a nice explanation for the severity of his situation. Still, he was apparently expected to make a full recovery, which seemed like a miracle.
** These are based on events, but genders, details and so on have been changed to protect identities. When appropriate, consent was obtained.