Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An accident

We have a young teenager in the unit this week. This is to say, we have a child in the unit this week. He was hit by a car. There was no room in the pediatric ICU, so he is with us. I much prefer to take care of kids. (Even when they're really sick? Isn't that sad and depressing? Yes, even when they're really sick. For reasons I can't explain, this kind of sad does not depress me.) As such, I may be the only one in the unit who doesn't wish we could transfer him.

Yesterday afternoon, the family descended on the unit, a flock of red eyed, puffy faced birds, thrown out of their v-shaped flight into a pile of broken winged mess. They were exhausted, but restless. When people brushed past them in the hall, they drew back, as if every unexpected touch was a static shock. They looked and behaved as people often do right after an accident--a lot like desperate addicts, pacing for relief they can neither conjure nor find.

They came in waves to his bed. Surrounding him on three sides, they stared at his body and looked for the boy they knew. And then they tried to will him to wake up. One of his many aunts reached across the bed, over his chest, and grabbed his mom's hand. "He's going to be fine," she said, wild eyed. "I can feel it. I just know it." The rest of them joined in chorus. He was a strong boy. He was going to get through this. He would wake up, his hair would grow to hide that 8 inch scar on his head, and he would walk right out of here, back to video games and after school sports and girls.

I had to hold myself back. I wanted to grab his aunt's hand with the same force as she had grab his mom's and say, "Stop saying that. You don't know that he's going to be fine. And it doesn't help." It doesn't help because his mom knows that he may not be fine. As she looks down at those staples in his head, his purple eye swollen shut, she knows. And as the chorus sings out in denial of all that lies in front of them, she is left alone to face it.

Hours later, after they've all been persuaded to go home, she and I sit with him. She is at the head of the bed, stroking his forehead, whispering half prayers. I am at the foot, sipping tea, staring at the monitor over his head, trying to decide what I'm going to do next if that intracranial pressure keeps going up. She has just finished doing reiki and the room smells of white angelica, an oil of protection and security, strength and endurance. I find myself hoping he soaks up every drop of it. I'm running out of things to try, and I really want to tell her that he's going to be fine.


j-dub said...

after reading your last two posts, I was immediately struck by how the "oil of protection and security, strength and endurance" is as much for the family as the boy. How we approach the unknown, the uncontrollable, similar in ways to a funeral: with much ceremony and ritual, ideally surrounded by family and friends.

Even telling those little, comforting phrases, "he's gonna be fine", helps steel us long enough for our brains to prepare for the possibility that he might not.

MmeBenaut said...

I wonder what happened to him. I'm in awe of your skills Terroni.