The ICU Again

by Lori Dwyer on June 18, 2012 · 20 comments

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me panicking slightly over the weekend. My Gran, who I’ve written about before here, was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of her local hospital– the same hospital I spent my last four days with my husband in.

The same ICU. The same nurses. Different bed… but only by one, and that’s all I can think when I walk in– thank goodness she is in a different bed, thank god because I know it’s ridiculous, but I couldn’t do it if she were in that first bed, second bay on the left….

But she’s not. Second bed, third bay… almost the same view of the elevated nurses station in the centre of the ward, but not quite.

Same waiting room. Quiet laughter this time, very few tears, no screaming arguments where blame is thrown and I get a security escort to my mate’s car because the nurses are worried someone will be waiting for me… (and I’d forgotten, mercifully, all about that until the nurse who called the guard mentions it to my mum… that what she remembers most about me, and she is still concerned, even now, with how I am coping.)

Flimsy hospital gown on and in that moment, with it swishing it against my feet, my mind flashes to a woman, (me) unable to stop crying, feeling ridiculous as she talks to her husband the same way she always has, (“I’ll be back in five minutes, babe… I promise.”) even though she knows by now he can’t hear her…

What could have become a rolling wave of a flashback ceases instantly… later, I’ll cry for her, for that woman. But there’s a wall there, a membrane (blocked heart chakra) up against her pain… because she doesn’t exist anymore, and I view her simple sweetness with sad amazement… she was such a lovely, gentle person. (”You’re just… harder” says my mum, not unkindly, and because I ask, “that’s the main difference I see with you… you’re just not as soft anymore, with the kids. But you have to be… You can’t afford to get hurt…” And that feels just like a tragedy, when you’re even afraid to love your own children because your basis of love has been knocked clean away from you.)

It’s suggested I don’t go, but the idea of not going doesn’t occur to me… actually, I think it does, and at one point on the horrible long drive in there for the first time, not knowing how I will react to the hospital ward that I still see in my nightmares, the five year old in my head begins screaming hysterically “What are you doing, Lori? What are we doing?? The ICU, the ICU! Why would you do this to me, to us?!”; and there’s nothing I can do for her but let her hide her eyes, hands clamped over her ears, snuggled into her favorite blanket while what’s left of me is brave.

And I feel brave, a little bit, especially when I discover how easy this is… but then I realize it’s only easy compared to last time, anything would be easy compared to that. My gran, she’s conscious, not ventilated, and that helps- a lot, more than I care to admit because I don’t like to imagine that, someone I love with a machine breathing into their chest cavity for them…

I know, she told me last time she was hospitalized, that my gran suffers from anxiety, especially late at night in hospital when she’s lonely, and I know the only ease for that type of anxiety is company.

And I know how much it hurts when people deny you that company because they’re afraid… even when you understand, it still hurts. And as I said, this is different, so different, leaving the world at eighty to be with your husband who you’ve longed for for almost thirty years, having lived most of that life happy and independent… That’s a different thing to leaving the way Tony did.

My Gran, she’s all kinds of awesome. She’s funny and tough and down to earth, with common sense and practicality. She’s never had a license but never asked much for help either– like most of the women of her generation, she seems to clad in war–issue steel.

She turned eighty last Christmas Day (I was about eighteen when i discovered she only got one present as a child, not two, and since then I’ve made a point of two presents, two cards, every year.) At her eightieth birthday party she danced and drank and was surrounded by the people who loved her… a week later she was ill, and she hasn’t really recovered since.

After being resus’ed on Thursday afternoon, she was transferred to the ICU. My mum and uncle gave the order for Do Not Resus and medication is for comfort only… I was expecting to say goodbye over the weekend.

I have seriously underestimated my gran. As of last night she’s sitting up in bed, talking, and managed to score a TV so she could catch up on Dancing With The Stars.

I wish I could say that was as promising as it sounds… it’s not. With her heart functioning at less than the percent, we’re just playing the waiting game… I’m not sure how I’ll deal with that, anymore than I knew how I would handle this.

I have a habit of underestimating myself, and the stoic voice in my mind will tell me, if I let it, that here is nothing brave about this– visiting your grandmother in hospital is simply maintaining the status quo. I think I know better, and I keep capsules of compliments to swallow later, in case I forget.

The nurse I remember most from Tony’s last nights, the same one who told me I must have had the most beautiful dream, because I was smiling in my sleep; she remembers me, too. I remember her saying to me at the time what a good job I was doing, and I remember wondering what she’d seen to be able to classify someone as doing a bad job… I think it spoke to my testament that I could have been so angry, if I’d wanted to- I could have stayed away from the hospital completely and not held his hand and told him I forgave him, I still loved him.

The nurse reiterates that again to my mum this time around– that I did a good job, did what needed to be done and let my husband go in peace… I was brave. And she still thinks I’m brave now, all the nurses do, just to be able to walk into the ICU makes me brave.

And that makes things better… some acknowledgment from a witness who’s outside my emotional whirlpool that I’m not being overly–dramatic, and this really was distressing by all parameters.

But so far, so good… typing this out, I’m actually slightly amazed at myself. But when it comes down to it, the ICU is just another geographical location… just a place, just a spot on a hospital map, with no more significance than that.

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

E. June 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

I hope that your Gran is comfortable. Your love for her shows so much in this post. Good on you for keeping her company. I hope that thinking back, you can see why we think you are so strong. Thinking of you and your family.


Anonymous June 19, 2012 at 8:35 am

Blame – always directed at the wrong time and to the wrong people. I imagine what you where blamed for is the same typ eof blame that was directed at my husabnd when his first wife was killed. I cannot believe that anyone, let alone family can do this to you (and in my hubbys case – him) at the time that it least needs to be done or heard. In hubbys case the blame was misdirected as was yours. My thoughts are with you always as I have followed your life since then due to link via naother page at the time.


Spagsy June 19, 2012 at 7:54 am

I think you did great. I'm hoping and praying that your nightmares are gone. I also hope that you are able to see that ICU can be a place where people say hello again – its not always for goodbyes. I know that in your Gran's case you will say goodbye, and I hope you both get to express your love for each other before you do.
Xx rah rah


Casey June 18, 2012 at 9:52 pm

These situations are rarely easy but in your case it must be almost surreal… wishing you love light and strength Lori.


Miss Pink June 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

I completely missed this. I am sorry.
I think, even at 80 it is hard. It's still hard to say goodbye, but there is a part of you that finds it more acceptable. We are born, we have a childhood, fall in love, then again with our children, we raise them, grow older whilst doing so, and well, you move on and make way for the next generation.
It's still hard though. Still hurts. Still isn't fair.


Melissa June 18, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Oh yes, so brave. So honest and insightful, as always. Glad your gran pulled through.


Anonymous June 18, 2012 at 3:06 pm

My heart aches for you and your little ones. I feel your hurt and pain, and wish so desperately to soothe it. May God hold you in the palm of his hand. You strong, brave, beautiful, GOOD woman. He loved you so x x x


Lynda Halliger-Otvos June 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Keep putting one foot out there followed by the other and day by day you strengthen. Inspiration, model, inimitable yet igniting us to be better than we have been, encourager. You are al of these to me and to many others I suspect.


The Flying Drunken Monkey June 18, 2012 at 1:02 pm

To me you are the epitome of bravery and strength. I know for a fact that I could never be as strong as you have been. You inspire me everyday. xxxx


Joy June 18, 2012 at 12:34 pm

You are so very brave. I've been lurking around here for a while (and if you ever get on to Saskatchewan, Canada, look me up for a cuppa) and you. are. brave.

You also have a grace about you, and a heart that still seems a mile deep, and I am so glad for you that these nurses who bore witness to those days validate your bravery and pain.

I wish you peace and happiness, and for your Gran, too.


Anonymous June 18, 2012 at 12:20 pm

wow i never knew you where escorted out of the icu
i never knew much when it happened only i had to take my husband to see his best freind it must have been really hard to go back there remember if you eva mean me im only a phone call away hugs xoxox kirri


Debyl1 June 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Your Gran has hung on because she needed to show you how strong you are now.You are amazing.
Your understanding and comforting her through her anxiety is beautiful.
That line 'I know how much it hurts when people deny you that company because they are afraid' is so touching.So very true.
May your Gran be in peace and feel the love you are giving.xx


The Mother Freakin’ Princess (The MFP) June 18, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Lori, it is more then just geographical. I know, I've been to the ICU too. <3


om June 18, 2012 at 11:37 am

I thought I had it hard visiting my mentor in the same palliative care centre my grandfather passed in… perspective. I now have it.


Sophie Allen June 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

What strength you had to summon to be able to go there again, your Gran is very fortunate she has so much love around her.

My Grandma will be 93 this October, and we live in different states. I do cherish each time I go 'home' to visit because I get to spend valuable time with her.


Samantha Mawdsley June 18, 2012 at 10:20 am

I understand (as much as my life-experience allows me to) and trust me, you are brave! xx


Sandy Naidu June 18, 2012 at 10:17 am

Such a beautiful and inspiring post Lori – Thank you…


Eccles June 18, 2012 at 12:27 pm

It is so much more than bravery. It is about committment & love & just being there. The little hospital my Dad died in; so many people just abandoned to die alone. The staff say you're brave; you're one of the few who is willing, who wants to stay and just be with your loved one. Keep going, each person passes differently. I hope you will be with your Gran at that special moment… if only to see that it is different & that it is a beautiful time. Love always honey (X)


Toni June 18, 2012 at 12:17 pm

That was a pretty amazing thing you did, lori. I remember having to go back to the emergency treatment room where my son and I were taken after he died, and that was just a freaky experience. It felt like a big white clanging space in my head, and I couldn't focus well on anything else.
The trauma you went through was so much more horrific in so many ways, and as another survivor, I'm just so proud of you.


StrippedBareAU June 18, 2012 at 8:45 am

You Lori amaze and inspire me, the strength you have is unwavering. Yes at times you may crumble it is just another example of your humanity, I know when your children are older they will be proud of you, as we all are. Xoxo


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