Monday, November 21, 2011

Sacred Space

Just finished up my SICU month, and it seems to be that ICU's are very sacred spaces.  Once there was a 8 year old girl, who was probably visiting a grandparent, who was walking up and down the halls with her iPod and singing along to some borderline inappropriate pop radio song.  It was annoying to say the least, but we all sort of looked at one another and shrugeed it off; because if you are visiting someone in the ICU then you are having a very bad day.  And bad days give you the right to sing off key the same song on repeat for as long as you want.  It's a sacred space where all the staff knows that it's a Bad Day for anyone we see, so we're all a bit more forgiving and graceful.

I took call alone in the ICU a few times; far less than interns used to before the 16 hour work rule.  My last call was really tough.  It was perfectly quite from 6pm until 10:30pm; at which point one patient got very very sick very very fast.  I pronounced him dead before 10am.  In twelve hours, he went from sitting in bed talking to me; to struggling to breath and stating that he wouldn't want a breathing tube, he was 82 and had had enough.  Then I was calling his daughter to ask her to come in and say goodbye.  I held her hand as the priest gave Last Rights; and later I removed the last few things that were keeping him alive when we all agreed that it was time for him to go.  I stood next to his daughter and the nurse who had been with us all night as we watched his monitor flat line; and I choke out- "Time of death 9:46am."

Part of me felt like I was invading a sacred space as I stood in that room.  I was a stranger to them, having only known them for a few hours. It's a lot like the other post that I wrote awhile ago about Death; it was such a deeply personal and devastating thing for them, and I felt a bit like a fraud being a part of the moment without truly knowing them.

Sorry for all the sad thoughts.  More cheerful posts to come- I'm on pediatric surgery now and my average patient age is about 1 month.  So I get to hold tiny tiny babies all day.  Love.

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