Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Intensive Care

Sometime in your life, as a total surprise, a family member of yours might be taken to the hospital where they will spend a prolonged amount of time in the intensive care unit. This happened to me just recently.

I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but you should be forewarned – it might happen and then you want to be prepared: it is not like the movies. Even I, an ardent admirer of "Steel Magnolias" with its long Julia-Roberts-Coma-Sequence was grossly unprepared.

Here are some of the main differences you can expect:

Movie Fib: There is only one doctor.

In the movies, to make it easier to understand, they use one doctor to deliver plot points. In real life, there will be about six thousand doctors. They will appear not to know each other. You will tell Dr. Lastname “Dr. Smith said so and so” and then Dr. Lastname will say something like “Dr. Smith…does he have a beard?” and then, even though you are almost thirty, your Mom will embarrass you by saying “Dr. Smith has beautiful eyes.”

Movie Fib: Important things happen all the time

Untrue. The important thing has already happened. Now basically what the doctors are doing is just telling you interesting medical facts to pass the time.

Movie Fib: There is definitely one fatal sounding beep.
Bullshit. All beeps sound fatal and will give you a heart attack. Then you will get used to them and none of the beeps sound fatal. There should be a sequel to “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” called “Machines F@!#! Say Your Dad is Dying Every Twenty Minutes”

Movie Fib: Your family will huddle in the waiting room, crying.

Your family will sit around watching TV and reading and then someone will say “Who wants coffee?” and someone else will say “All I want is Taco Bell.” And they will respond “I’m not bringing Taco Bell into the hospital, it’s trashy.”

Movie Fib: You Will Read Aloud to the Unconscious
Okay, this is true. You'll do it. I did. If you are ever the person IN the coma, you ought to have some books set aside ahead of time. Not me, but someone I will call “Mom” is going to read you Eat, Pray, Love. I know, it sucks. I can’t help it. None of us like Tom Clancy.

Movie Fib: There will be long silent montages demonstrating the agony of your family.

I don’t know what kind of family you have but we never shut up.

Movie Fib: The One Closest Person In Their Life Will Get Them To Open Their Eyes

Everyone has seen a ton of movies where the most special person gets the eyes of the sick person to open. This gives the hospital room a contest-like atmosphere where your family competes to see who really is the most important.

I for a few days wanted to be that special person, even though I know my sister and I are loved the same. But I wanted to do it, I wanted to see his eyes open and recognize me and I could say something funny like, “You idiot, don’t do that again!” or serious like “Dad, it’s me, I love you” or try to explain everything or tell him about what’s happened, or even, for a second, enjoy that certainty that he will be there with me a little bit longer. Just a moment longer.

Movie Fib: There are endings
You hope not.


Anonymous said...

My mom just made me read 'Eat Pray Love' and I can't think of a WORSE book to read anywhere near a hospital. Except maybe Dune.

I know I spent a lot of the time narrating the whole event in my head, so don't feel guilty about that. It's a writer thing.

There's nothing helpful to say right now, I'm sorry. You're doing all the right things. Be strong.

bhan said...

well said. this is all true. it's both more comical and more mundane than you expect, but still hard. i've been there, too.

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