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Jun 13, 2008

Breaking Up

. Jun 13, 2008


I've returned to the sounds and smells of the hospital. By now I've learned which bells are harmless and which mean a difficult phone call to another family. The air is simultaneously sterile and stagnant. Preoccupied faces taught with worry or vacant with exhaustion pass in elevators and hallways. Races, ethnicities and genders fade away in the hospital. There are only two kinds of people here: the healthy and the sick.

My Dad may come home tonight but after three failed discharge orders, my Mother and I don't count on anything. We are fully immersed in the land of quotas - pee this much, breathe this deep, walk that far and then maybe we'll see, they say. I take a break from my Dad's room and wander down the corridor away from the cardiac unit and toward the women's wing. I begin passing photos of motherly love on the wall, women of all shades and sizes cradling brand new lives in their arms. The odd contrast strikes me - at one end lay those whose hearts are struggling, on the other side tiny hearts beat strongly with the joy of new beginnings.

It's strange how tiring it is to just sit and wait. I come upon a cluster of faded gray arm chairs in a nook and plop down in one. My legs feel like tree trunks. I leave them sticking straight out and close my eyes. When I peel them open again, I see the sign on the adjacent wall, "Neonatal Critical Care Unit. Parental Visits Only." Double doors without handles next to the sign lead into that area. There is a card reader on the wall.

A few moments later, a 30 something man emerges from the doors. His wavy brown hair is flattened on one side, a popular look among we visitors who steal naps in a chair propped against a wall. His brow is furled and he keeps wetting his lips. An ID badge is strung around his neck with the word "Neonatal" clearly visible. He removes a cell phone from his pocket and sits down in a chair in the nook katty corner to mine.

Phone conversations broadcasting the most private medical details are around every corner in the hospital. Modesty and personal boundaries disappear under higher priorities. I want to give the man some privacy, but I am simply too tired to move. I close my eyes and turn away, but his voice fills the empty hallway:

"Hi Mom, it's me."
"I know. I fell asleep."
"No, no. It's alright. We're alright. Don't come."
"Yes, I know you would. But don't. There's nothing you can do here."

His voice cracks slightly

"Mom, it's too far. You stay there with Dad. She's gonna be alright. She's gonna get through this."
"Mom, Mom, you're breaking up. I can't hear...I'll call again at 6, okay? Bye Mom, bye - "

I hear the phone click shut, a deep breath, a pause, then muffled gasps. The man holds his head in his hands and cries.

11 Whispers:

Rene' Morris said...

Oh my gosh. I have to say that I'll be so glad when your dad is out of the hospital. But, it's nice that you let us know who needs prayer.

Her said...

Of the 2 kinds of folk in a hospital, for 26 years, I've been the sick one. In and out all my life with an incurable lung condition. But your post really rang true when you talked about the parent with a baby in the NICU. Five years ago, (due to my lungs), my first born came too early and had to be in the NICU for almost a month. I don't know why I am sharing this much detail. I think its because I feel your pain...and also your Dad's. I'll pray for both of you.

tony said...

Dugg it. I felt like I was there feeling the man's worry. Great writing.

Tony said...

Some reason my comment did not leave my my return address.

Miss Write said...

Dealing will a loved one's illness is never easy. Even my dad's minor (considerably) slipped disc episode really frightened me; certainly those with their loved ones (especially children) in dire situations would be feeling much, much worse.
Great to hear that your dad's better.

Vienne said...

Hello Rene', I'm so happy he is home! Thank you for reading these posts and keeping those who are suffering in your thoughts.

@Her, how brave of you to have your baby inspite of your illness. What a long month that must have been. I truly hope all is now well with your child and you. Thank you so much for your prayers and sharing your story.

Hey, thanks Tony. I am still wondering how the man's baby is doing. I hope he let his mother come to support them.

@Miss Write, yes I know what you mean. Illness is the great equalizer, the abrupt reminder that our parents are in fact mortals. You don't fully appreciate good health until it's gone, I guess. Thanks for your well wishes for my Dad.

Missy said...

I can totally relate to this

Daniel said...

Unfortunately I have to say I've done the same thing as that father did too his mother. Sometimes especially in the hospital you want everything too be at peace and not have the commotion or constant worry of others if they around.

Your writing style is so great.

free fax software said...

you have a great style of writing...I'll be visiting your site more often

Anonymous said...

after reading this i remembered an article you might be interested in.

thanks for your blog. i really enjoy it and have even read earlier posts. also thanks for the warnings on some of them :)

Jennifer said...

There was a period in my life where I spent a lot of time in hospitals (my mother's long time boyfriend was very sick and in the critical care unit for six months until his death) and this piece reminded me of that time. The beeps, the smells, the heartbreaking drama.

I hope your Dad is ok, and I hope that little one is, too.


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