Seven Millimeters: Life Interrupted
I don’t even know how fast I walked to the MICU. The hard floors were killing my feet and the distance, thereafter; didn’t faze me until later. I found my Mother in a single room, hooked up to a heart monitor. A small tube was in her mouth, covered by an oxygen mask. There were tiny sprays of mist coming through the opening near her nose. She was on a respirator and unconscious. Mom’s eyes were slightly opened, but there was no movement (REM) to indicate she was dreaming. She didn’t respond to my touch or to my voice. Her hands were like ice. I could see her chest moving, up and down slowly, but it wasn’t on her own. I touched her face lightly. She still didn’t respond. Mom’s head was cradled on a single pillow … no movement … just slow and labored breathing aided by a machine.
Mom was supposed to be sitting in a comfortable chair waiting for me to pick her up. Instead, she lay helpless, comatose and unaware of my presence. Within a few minutes, Nurse Clare (not her real name) appeared with a new IV pouch. The substance was clear and had Mom’s name on it…Helen C. Platt, the date and time which was inscribed by the nurse, and a bar code underneath. The nurse scanned the tag and removed the used pouch from the IV pole and replaced it with the new one. Nurse Clare checked Mom’s pulse and then the levels of her oxygen. She gave me a small glance after writing the data on the notepad she kept in her pocket and then walked out. She knew I had questions, but her eyes gave way to silence on her part. She hesitated for a moment at the door, looked at me sympathetically and then proceeded to leave the room.
Minutes began to slowly drag by the time a doctor entered my Mother’s new domicile. From the looks of things, she would be here for a while. There was no doubt of that. Doctor Theo (not his real name) indicated that my Mother suffered a puncture and tear of the atrial wall of her heart. “A puncture … a tear of the atrial wall.” That was mild compared to what I was told next. “Pericardial tamponade … blood fills the sac surrounding the heart… can squeeze the heart …causing cardiac failure, otherwise known as congestive heart failure.” That was a lot for me to take in at once. “Tamponade.” Saying the word didn’t make it sound any better nor was it easier to absorb. Seeing my Mother in that condition wasn’t a cakewalk either. How could my Mother survive after such trauma? They kept saying that she was stable but critical. She was stable… but … critical. My God, was there no end to Mom’s suffering? Hadn’t she suffered enough? I asked questions and received answers of uncertainty. Mom's life had been interrupted by someone who didn't think ... about her.
After leaving Mom in her room, I went to the chapel. I don’t even know how I got there. I just found myself standing in the chapel, looking at the cross and all the candles flickering for the many prayers for the patients in this hospital. I felt numb and my mind was spent. I couldn’t think about the future. I could only remember how I found my Mother. I heard a loud scream breakthrough my thoughts and suddenly realized it was me … screaming. I fell to my knees in the middle of the chapel and there was no one there for me and my grief. I spent time in the hospital chapel every day after that, sometimes trying to gain or regain some strength in my faith in God that Mom would survive all this. I was scared. I had to be strong, not just at home, but at work as well.