I’d really like to do more to chronicle our days. It’s difficult, as they seem to rush by so fast that I hardly notice things before something else happens. My hope is that the return of a computer to our collection of crap we drag around each day will help, but I’m probably hopelessly deluded.
Today was a day where I noticed more clearly the distinction between our old haunt in the Cardiac ICU and our new home upstairs in the Pediatric ICU. In the CICU, it’s fairly quiet, and the eight beds are filled with patients who are pre- or post-operative heart patients. There’s a lot of worry in the air, and heartache, and thoughts about getting things fixed, and going home. But the combination of superhuman surgeons and compassionate nurses make it a place, in the end, of hope. The bulletin board outside is filled with photos of patients going home, and cards and letters from smiling kids.
Up in the PICU, there’s a bit more noise. The cases are more general, and so much less certain. Post-surgical patients of all kinds and ages (well, up to 18, anyway…). Plus newborns with some really serious problems: multiple tumors, metabolic conditions, pneumonia, and mysterious and undiagnosed conditions. Kids in isolation look out from the rooms along the sides, and everyone else sits in open beds around the desk. Which means you can hear the TVs, and cries, and screams, and alarms on all of the monitors everywhere you go. The staff are all adjusted to the chaos, and the kids seem not to mind, but the parents get a little frazzled. The bulletin board here is more cluttered, and has several photos of kids with obvious, enduring disabilities, and more than a few tattered programs from funerals.
It’s also the regular end-of-the-line for the day’s traumas: on sunny days, kids jump on their bikes, play baseball, and climb trees, and so a few end up here. Many of us look out the window, see the first warm day of spring, and smile. The staff here see the same sight and offer a grim, “should be a lot of traumas”. And, sure enough, a couple hours after the Memorial Day picnics get underway, patients come up from the ER and their families are right behind them.
But the real angst comes with the automobile traumas. Yesterday, there was a little girl in the next bed wearing a neck immobilizer, her mother holding her hand. Later, in the waiting room, I overheard the mother talk of someone ‘running right through that red light’. Her friends and family absentmindedly blathered about the many red lights they’d run, and all of the tickets they’ve accumulated. Fortunately, she seemed too deeply in shock to notice.
Today brought another family gathered around a grandpa. A family of five had been hit by some drag-racing teenager yesterday: one child dead, and two in the PICU. Grandpa said he didn’t recognize one of them, so damaged was his grandson’s head and face. They were talking about ‘vehicular manslaughter’, chemical burns, and how the various repairs would be staged.
But the event that brought tears to the entire waiting room was a manic mother bursting out of the PICU and into the waiting room to call her mother. “My baby just stopped breathing in my arms!,” she repeated, again and again, before she hung up and ran back. A few minutes later the concrete floor trembled and the halls echoed as she mourned the loss of her three-week-old girl.