Saturday, March 04, 2006

Defining Comfort

It had been a very stressful morning with dear son, after being airlifted, and who now was on a ventilator. After much issue with the breathing tube, they had finally given him some paralyzing medicine to help stabilize him or rather keep him from extubating the breathing tube. It was hard seeing him, attached to the ventilator and struggling so much. Despite being nine years old, he now seemed younger, mostly because he looked so helpless. The Intensive Care Unit was filled this day, mostly with infants, some having heart surgeries and others for a variety of reasons. I couldn’t help but think that if you had to choose, you wouldn’t switch places with anyone in the unit, because you couldn’t figure out, who was worse or better, depending on your point of view. Dear son seemed more peaceful now, if you could call it that, so I left his bedside to go get something to eat.

I was gone no longer than 15 minutes when I returned there was a small card, left by the clergy, on his pillow, with their extension on it. Panic stricken, I called the nurse to see what had happened. It turned out, someone had called the clergy, and when they arrived, I was not there so they left their card.

It was only a year later, when it happened again. It was 4:45 a.m. when I heard something in dear son’s room and went to check on him. He had begun seizing and the seizure began picking up in it’s intensity. I turned him on his side so he wouldn’t choke and looked at the clock. Once I knew it was not settling down, I quickly called 911 and the paramedics arrived within minutes. They quickly rushed him to the nearest hospital and I soon followed in my own car. Unable to control the seizures, they called the air lift unit from a major academic medical center. The unit arrived, and the young doctor, in his maroon jumpsuit, took command of the ER. If there was ever a time I wanted to see this school’s colors, this was it. He was young, dashing and smart. I quickly glanced at his name embroidered on the jumpsuit and filed it quickly away in my memory. I admired his swiftness and control of the ER. He had a blond crew cut and was very handsome; he looked more like the kind of person that would be in the movie Top Gun, than to be here at 6 a.m. on a weekday morning. He began putting in the breathing tube. I left the ER immediately, since I can not handle that and because I had full confidence in this institution.

I left the ER and headed to the nearest bathroom, to brush my teeth. I thought it would pass the time it took to insert the breathing tube; also, I was a wee bit uncomfortable talking to anyone with morning breath. I came out of the washroom and a woman quickly descended upon me. I was confused at first, since I knew she was not a doctor. I feverishly searched for her name tag and found her name with the word, “Clergy” below it. She started talking to me but I didn’t hear a thing. My mind was racing trying to put it all together when I blurted out, “Did he die?” “No”, she said. She just thought it might be a good idea if she was there. Well, I knew damn well why she was there, they thought he was going to die. I quickly dismissed her and went back to the ER. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I needed her, because if there was a time, this was it. It was just that I didn’t find her comforting. Seeing the clergy at the hospital almost always indicates son is near death. Fortunately, he was airlifted and ped neuro doc took over and rescued him once again. So for this reason, the clergy is never comforting to me in the hospital. It almost always means son is going to die and before I can process that, their mere presence startles me and proves to be more upsetting at those times than comforting. That does not mean that I do not believe in the power of prayer, because I do, but that is the topic for another discussion.

So today, I was taking dear mother grocery shopping. She is almost 80 now and moved downtown a year ago in an effort to downsize. She rents a condo from my dear brother and is slowly adjusting to city life. We had just finished grocery shopping when we were stopped at the light. In front of us was a limousine. I frankly didn’t notice it until she mentioned that my niece really loves limousines. She said that she found it odd that kids today enjoy them so much. Upon further discussion, she mentioned that she supposed she could understand why they liked them so much, because they were associated with such good times. She went on to say how the kids today are accustomed to using them for proms and later for weddings. Still not knowing where she was going, I asked her how she felt about them. She said, “I don’t particularly like them.” “The first time I rode in a limousine was to bury my father. The second time was to bury my husband.” I thought back to the clergy incidents and dear son and nodded to her. “I understand”, I said. And that I did.


Anonymous said...

Oh wow, can I relate. My youngest has Down Syndrome, when he was born he was in NICU for 13 days. The day after he was born a man showed up in my hospital room and introduced himself as a hospital chaplain. He proceded to tell me how they had discussed my son & me at the pastoral meeting and that they were praying for us. he was so mornful the thought suddenly entered my head that my son was going to die and this man must know something we hadn't been told. I sat there in silence he may have asked me some questions, I don't really remember I was just too shocked. The next morning a woman chaplain showed up, she had been to visit the NICU and saw my son, he comment was how beautiful he was. It was what I needed to hear. But, even 3 years later, i'm still a little shocked at the presumption of the "pastoral commitee" whoever they are. We weren't particularly religious at the time, but have become more so but in any case would choose to have our own clergy visit in the case of a serious hospitalization.


Dream Mom said...

Anne, Yes, it is so odd that something that should be so comforting is more often than not, upsetting for exactly the reason you described.

I hope your son is doing better now. I love the Down's Syndrome babies for precisely the reason you described. They are beautiful and they are so sweet.

Thank you for taking the time to write. It meant a lot.

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