February 10, 2017 by CassieCravings
Before “the incident” — the seizure, the brain clot, the stroke — I never gave much thought about to how emotions feel beyond how they sit in the heart. Now that I am immobile, mostly incoherent, and only conscious in slight flurries, emotions have an energy that is palpable. While I cannot always distinguish the words being whispered in huddled hushes by scrub adorned strangers, I can feel their worry and their uncertainty.
From my hospital bed in the ICU, a crowd of medical professionals and my family gather in a corner of a room already crowded with too much furniture and an unsettling amount of medical equipment. I strain my eyes to see and my ears to hear. But all I can make out is the fear. This time the fear isn’t only in the eyes of my family. I see it in the timid smiles of the white-coated doctors. I suppose If I had the energy I would have been worried. I am alarmed at my own apathy but not surprised. While no one has told me otherwise, I am not sure that I won’t die. I suppose no one has discussed it with me because they aren’t sure either.
My husband is trembling. His hands. His voice. As he approaches me and gingerly brushes back my hair, I feel his fear and it shudders through me. “Hey,” he says as casually as possible. “You’re going to go to another hospital.” I could ask him why, but even in my broken state I can put it together. I am not getting transferred out of the ICU because I am getting better. Another hospital means more specialized care, which means my fears are rational. Death is still possible. At this point, I am so tired that I’m not sure which is worse: dying or being a shell of who I once was.
Nearly immediately I am loaded into another ambulance. I take the urgency as another bad sign. Hospitals run on their own time zone. They are slow. “Soon” is translated to “in several hours”. “Today” typically means “tomorrow”. When they transfer me within the hour, I understand the dire situation in which I find myself. It is no longer fleeting fears or what ifs. This is a sober reality of what could very well be.
The more specialized hospital finds me in the NICU (Neurological Intensive Care Unit). A chaplain is offered to me, and I readily accept. He prays for my soul. I try to pray with him, but my mind is still so swampy. All my broken mind can muster is, “Hear him, God.”
The chaplain offers me communion. He feeds it to me as I cannot do it myself. I choke down bits of cracker and grape juice as he recites those familiar words: This is the body of Christ…
“Would you like a last will and testament?” the chaplain gently asks. There is no pity in his voice like there has been in others. I suppose as a hospital chaplain you become painfully acquainted with the brokenness of people. For the first time since being in the hospital there is no pity. His voice is full of compassion. It is soothing and smooth and comforting. It lacked pity, and for that I am grateful.
I nod that I would like my wishes known. My mother cries. A piece of paper with choices is brought to me. I can’t read them, so the chaplain reads them to me. My heavy head nods at death’s options that sound the most appealing.
For the first time the chaplain lowers his voice to a whisper. He is no longer speaking to me but to my family. He says that he doesn’t know if I can sign it. But I nod vigorously, my broken head thrashing about like a bobble head. He says that I can certainly try. There is pity in his voice. With all of the stubbornness I can muster, I grip the pen as tightly as my fingers will wrap around it. It falls from my hand. I try again. “Sign here”, the chaplain points. My heavy arm reaches for the line on the paper, but it might as well be reaching for the moon. Illegible scribbles are scratched onto the paper. It’s not on the line. I don’t have to look to know. I hear it in the silence of the room.
The chaplain clears his voice and asks my husband, “You heard her wishes? You can carry them out without her signing.” I let the heaviness of my body sink me into the cold hospital bed. I want to cry, but I don’t because my mother is crying. I have caused enough pain already. There is no point in causing more by hysterics. Suddenly the guilt, irrational though it is in a medical condition I cannot help, becomes even heavier than the lifeless limbs that are clamped to my body.
In a new hospital room walled only curtains, I drift back to sleep. This hospital will be ready, if needed, for a procedure that even the neurosurgeons don’t want to perform due to risks. I am oblivious to the threat of the procedure, perhaps it is for the best.
Part 4 is coming soon!