Visiting hours in the ICU are 11 to 12 noon and 6 to 7 pm. I was ten minutes late getting there, and will probably wonder for a long time to come if I had not been would things have been different. When I got there I was stopped by a guard from entering, saying that there was an emergency going on in there and no visitors allowed. I said I had a patient in there, and what was the name of the patient with the emergency and he did not know. At that moment the door swung open and a nurse was coming out and I asked her what was the name of the patient having the emergence, she asked me who I was there for, I gave her my Mom’s name and she said yes, she was the one in crisis. I went cold and started shaking. They brought me a chair and sat me there at the door of ICU. I don’t know how long I sat there when I realized I must call my brother. I did, told him what was happening. He said he was on his way.
I don’t know how long I sat out there shaking, but finally the team of doctors and nurses ministering to my Mom came out and I could finally go in. Another delay. The remaining doctor said to wait a few minutes. I guess he wanted her to look as normal as possible before I saw her. I asked what happened and he said she had cardiac arrest, was resuscitated and put on a ventilator. I asked how long was it before she was resuscitated, he said it happened on sight. They were there when it happened and they took immediate action. I wanted to know how long it was she was deprived of oxygen to give me an idea if there was any brain damage. He said just a few minutes, thinking that that would be reassuring, but I know it takes just a few minutes of oxygen deprivation to cause irreparable brain damage. I asked when this happened and he said just a few minutes before eleven.
Would I have been able to see her and talk to her had I come in earlier, as it was easy to bend the rules a bit and come in a few minutes before visiting hours? I know, in my brain, that this is not the case, that they would not have let me in, but there is always that little devil that keeps whispering in my ear, what if? Would things have been different if? But that is going down a very slippery road.
Finally I was allowed to go in and see her. Her eyes were half shut and they had the oxygen tube down her throat. The monitors were all blinking and they had more tubes going in at her neck where they had a cannula. She was totally still, just the assisted breathing and the flashing monitors showing her heart’s performance. I cannot read all those numbers and colored fluctuating lines, so don’t know what is going on. My brother and his wife came in and we all stood there watching her. The doctor came in and we tried to find out from him how long it was before she was resuscitated to try and assess the amount of brain damage she might have endured. He said that she suffered this cardiac arrest while under observation so no time lapse before resuscitation. But with age anything could happen and it will take a few hours before they could properly assess the situation. We had to content with that, and just had to wait. A very long, very stressful day, and no change. A friend showed up with a pizza which I could not even think of looking at as I was so tense I was nauseated, I could not even think of food. I had not slept well the night before, was feeling very tired and a bit punchy and food was the last thing on my mind.
By evening there was still no change, we were in the corridor in the ICU talking to the doctor again and I was facing the cubicle next to hers. The gentleman in there was following what we were saying very closely and when the doctor was done, he half rose out of the bed and forcefully waved to me calling me to his side. I stepped in and asked him what I can do for him when he jumped right in saying : You should never leave her alone like that, all night long she was calling out to bring Aida to her. Don’t leave her. This was like a knife in my heart. I am not allowed to be there at night, and that he should be so incensed because of her need of the night before shows how much he was affected by her pleas. Of course he is totally unaware of the situation, but his words cut me very deeply. I could only nod and hurry out of ICU to burst into tears outside.
By late evening I was starting to fade. My friend is a real trooper, she stuck and gave me leeway to stay or go, up to me. So at around seven in the evening, after being there for wight hours, and after my chest pains started getting bothersome, I thought it best we should call it a day and go back to the apartment. I asked to borrow my brother’s driver as I couldn’t see straight, let alone drive us back, even such a short distance.
We got home, I helped her, to a great deal of protesting on her part, in making the bed where she’ll be sleeping, showing her the ins and outs of where things were, how to operate certain things then she insisted on eating the pizza. I popped in the microwave, brought out the much needed wine and we sat and ate. Afterwards we want and sat in the living room, I was too wired to settle and thought by talking and trying to unwind might help me to sleep, along with the wine. By eleven my friend was nodding off, so we turned in. I got in bed and tried to read for a while then thought it best to try to sleep. Nothing. I tossed and turned till three in the morning, turned on the light and read a bit more. At four tried again to sleep, to no avail. Whenever I start to relax my feet and legs cramped up. So by six I had given up and sat reading in bed till my friend woke up. We both got up and made some tea, took it in the living room and sat chatting and sipping our tea. By seven she said to go back to be and try to get to sleep. By then I was feeling really sick, like I had a stomach flu, but I got into bed and in a very few minutes fell deeply asleep for one hour, woke up looked at the time then slept again for another hour. This was the only thing that made it possible for me to get up and face my day. I called the hospital and the told me that she is still on the ventilator, I asked if there was any change and the nurse said you will have to talk to the doctor. So my friend and I decided to move, and go to the hospital, but she insisted that we go have breakfast at the club before even going to the hospital. She was absolutely right. Sitting in the sun in the fresh air with a lot of cheerful people around and being served breakfast was a cure on its own. By the time we got to the hospital I was feeling much better.
To be continued ….