Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part

ICU West.

His nurse is expecting me. She calls to me and leads me around the corner to bed five.

He’s moving like a bug trapped on its back; not thrashing; he’s too weak for that and too sedated but he’s moving; legs kicking in slow motion; arms rising and falling. His head rolls back and forth. His eyes are very slightly open. Tubes are wired into his puffy wrists and into his mouth and down his throat. There are bandages on his legs. I have no idea why, unless they extracted something there for use in the bypass surgery. Gadgets and displays surround him in a great arc. There’s enough computing power hooked into him to launch a mission to Mars.

I wasn’t ready for this. He’d been motionless when I’d seen him previously; in essence, comatose.

“He’s very fidgety right now,” says the nurse. “I’ve just upped the dose of [whateverdrug – Trazipan or some damn thing] to try to get him to sleep. He didn’t sleep well last night.”

I wouldn’t either with a goddam pipe down my throat. “When can he come off the breathing machine?”

She explains their difficult position. It might just be the tube that’s making him so ornery but if they take it out and it turns out not to be the cause – the situation could be dangerous.

“Is this a bad time for me to visit?”

“No. It’s probably a good time. You might be able to calm him down. Try to convince him to sleep.” She moves away from us.

“Hey Dad.” I step closer and lean down. “Hey Dad.”

His legs slow. His head turns in my direction. His eyes open wider for a moment. His lips and throat are moving.

“Are you trying to talk? Don’t try to talk. You got that tube down your throat.”

“Is it driving you crazy, that tube? Listen, you need to be as calm as you can. You got to try to live with it for now, you know? They can’t take it out until you’ve been calm for a while. You need to cooperate with these guys. The nurse says it’s best if you can sleep for a while.”

“You’re lucky, you know. This is a great hospital. These doctors and nurses – they’re the best. I trust them. I think they know what’s best for you, you know? And I know Judy thinks so too.”

Three different wavy lines undulate across a monitor. One of them is his heart, I assume, beating, blessedly, again.

“I’m really glad you got this operation. I’m looking forward to – I’m looking forward to seeing you recover, and how much better your health will be after.”

“I love you, Dad. No, don’t try to talk.”

“It’s a little strange; this one-way conversation. I’m used to being more of a listener, you know?”

I’m touching his shoulder. His arm rises, whether to hold my hand or to punch a hole in the ceiling, who knows. I hold his big puffy hand.

“I’ve been talking to Judy a lot. I know we hardly ever talk, you and me, and when we do, you always say it’s great to see me and I should call more often, but you never call me. So I’ve just always thought it’s a bit of a game, you know? That you’re just trying to be kind to me; to make me feel wanted. But I’ve been talking to Judy and she says, no, it’s not like that. So I guess I had it wrong. But I want you to know that I gave Mosaic my notice. And I want to move back to Hamilton for a while. And I’d like to see you as much as you want. Every day if you want. I mean that.”

A tear runs down his cheek. Maybe it was there before. Maybe I didn’t notice until now.

I look around and search for things to say; to pass some time.

“I’m really excited about the future. My life has really changed, you know? And I think it’s gonna be the same for you. I think there are a lot of possibilities coming out of this. Healthier lives for both of us. I really look forward to talking to you about these things when you can talk again. Hopefully soon if you can just find a way to put up with all this shit; to be calm, you know? To do what the doctors ask you to.”

His eyes are fully closed now. He’s barely moving.

I tell him hockey season is coming and his beloved Montreal Canadiens are looking like a strong team. Some predict them to lead the conference.

“I don’t know if you can hear me anymore, Dad. I don’t know if you’re sleeping or not.”

“He is,” says the nurse, coming up behind me. “Thank you. You’re timing was excellent. You helped him to sleep. He needed that.”

“Thank you for everything,” I say. I tell her when I’ll be back again for another visit.

I make my way out to the big double doors and push the yellow button to open them. The intensive care unit does not smell nice. I would very much like to never smell it again.

3 comments:

Roger said...

thats got to be one of the toughest things to do..

hang in there

Claudia said...

You made me cry...

Hope that the talk happens.

Suki said...

:big hugs:
take care.