Today marks three weeks that my dad has been in shock trauma. The past few days have been stable for the most part, and we were anticipating hearing that soon he would move to the rehab facility. His 75th birthday is 8 days away.
When I arrived at his room this morning, it was dark and empty. He had been moved back to ICU late last night when he exhibited great difficulty in breathing. I had not gotten a phone call. He was not in the best of spirits when I left him last night, but he has had ups and downs overall so I was not expecting a dramatic shift.
His nurse in ICU is fantastic, though. The doctor made an appearance. I feel that I know exactly why my dad was moved, and that the doctors have a plan. It is a setback, for sure. But I’m learning that this is how these things work.
I have set up camp here, more or less. I recognize a lot of the families camped in the waiting room, a lot of the nurses and I exchange friendly hellos. I ask Yolanda if she had fun with her grandson in the snow last weekend, David and Sara pull up extra chairs when they see family in Dad’s room and shake hands. The other families and I give smiles of encouragement or shrugs of the situation we are sharing. It is familiar. For the next month, it is my job and I punch in /punch out, much like the hospital employees do. I think about what they do when they go home, how they unwind.
I entertain myself by giving back-stories to the hierarchical levels within a hospital as I observe them. The radiology techs are two men, very short and stooped, devoid of smiles — they reside in the bowels of the hospital, crawl up when summoned, and push the mountainous machine shaped like a Zamboni. They are like trolls, skulking around until they are no longer needed. They never speak. No one speaks to them.
The nurses are like robots, repeating the same script room by room, poking/prodding/squeezing/changing and tossing soiled linen. “Can you open your eyes?”, “Say your name for me!, “What’s your name?” Down the line they go. In every room, a crumpled human being in varying stages of disrepair and indignity. I don’t know how they do it. It is probably hard enough to deal with the monotony of their work, much less chat with a family member perched expectantly at bedside. I write all of their names down. I assume they take a long shower when they get home. They pet their cats or feed their fish, because their schedules don’t allow for dogs.
The ladies (they are always ladies) who fly by with the liquid meals for shock trauma patients have the same body type, same demeanor: short, pudgy, sweet and effervescent. They are delivering what they feel are good things in white gift bags. They are always brief but charming in their exchanges. They are always too blessed to be stressed.
The doctors have been, before today, mythical beings that are rarely spotted. They swoop, speak in hushed tones, their tired eyes blank except for the reflection of the pink and beige monitor displays in front of them. They whisk away before you can snap a blurry, Sasquatch-retreating photo. There is a hierarchy within the doctor hierarchy. The students are exhaustedly enthusiastic, the residents carry an air of undeserved swagger combined with competitive nervousness. At rounds, they travel in a tight cyclone.
Trying to adjust cable under normal circumstances is painful. Trying to cancel cable for a loved one in ICU, it turns out, is an ordeal. I was told I needed verbal confirmation to authorize myself to end my dad’s cable. I told her that was impossible because my father was on a respirator. I ended up hanging up on her. If I had legal evidence, I could use that as well. My dad and I haven’t shared as much as we should have on these things. Phone and medical bills are the same way. I need to prove that I am the only next of kin and have power of attorney. To cancel a cable service. Unreal.
I confirmed my dad’s blood type today. He needed a pint of blood and responded quickly after it was administered. It changed his status from comatose to slightly reactive. I joked with the nurse, “Actually, he’s a vampire, is that not on his chart?”
His blood type is B positive. Sounds like a good strategy. Cheers.