Chapter Five: A Room Full of Love and An Angel
Once the choice to not receive phone calls was made, I began to become much more aware of my hospital experience and began to make even more empowering choices. I had noticed one day as the doctor of the day was standing at the foot of Steve’s bed telling us about his condition that Steve’s heart rate became excessively high. The nurse noticed, too. As soon as the doctor left the room, she told me that Steve didn’t like what was being said. I told her I had noticed the same thing, so from that moment on I made the rule that nothing negative would be said in Steve’s room. The doctors would only tell Steve’s mom and dad the daily updates while Steve’s sister and I kept his room peaceful and as positive as possible. The doctors were a little surprised to hear about me opting out of the daily reports. Usually, the wife wants to know every update, but they agreed and began to leave the room after examining Steve to tell his parents about his daily condition. This helped me and Steve. I was very aware that I could not remain positive for Steve if I was being told daily how dire his situation was.
Each day our little family told Steve how wonderfully he was doing. We told him the doctors were very encouraged by his progress, even though they weren’t. We never let Steve know the severity of his illness. And, even though he was in an induced state of deep sleep, I KNEW he was very aware of everything happening around him.
One day my son came to visit and we both sat over in the corner of Steve’s ICU room and talked quietly. He was telling me about a recent breakup with a girlfriend and how much he missed her. Steve and I had not been fond of this woman and really didn’t want to see our son with her any longer. I began to tell him that he deserved more than what she was giving him. It was quite an intense whispered discussion. During this talk, Steve, still in his deep sleep, began to wave one of his arms around like he was trying to get our attention. My son motioned for me to look over at the bed to see what Steve was doing. I was surprised to see Steve moving, but I told my son, “See even Steve agrees with what I’m saying. “ I walked over to his bed and said to him, “You agree with me, don’t you?” Steve began to wildly shake his head yes. So, I told my son, “See, even in a coma he has a strong opinion about this!” This told me with complete certainty that Steve was acutely aware of everything going on around him. I had made the right choice to keep the negative and scary talk out of the room.
Steve’s sister, mother, and I also made a pact that one of us would always be holding his hand or touching his feet during the day while we were with him. It was important to us that he feel our human touch, the touch of familiar love that he had known for many years. We felt we were his tether to the physical realm. We took turns. When one of us would need a break, another one would take over. There were so many things in the room that were cold and clinical; IV stands with as many as 20 IV bags, a heart monitor, a respiratory machine that was breathing for him, and many other big loud machines that chimed, beeped, and gurgled. He had so many tubes going in and out of his body that we felt he needed to know how it still felt to be human. The three of us became the warm human element in this sterile and cold environment.
The more choices I made about how this experience could be a loving one, the more grounded I became. This helped me relax more and my semi-relaxed state brought even more awareness into my new daily routine. With this new grounded awareness, I began to notice the nurses even more than before. I saw their dedication and attention to the thousands of daily details that kept a person alive. They were an amazing group of men and women and I was so thankful for their expertise and their ability to maintain such a high level of care over their long twelve hour shifts. They were wonderful and we felt safe knowing they were in charge of Steve’s care. Then one day, a very special nurse walked into Steve’s room. She was different than the other nurses. She was an Angel.
The day our Angel arrived, we noticed immediately how different she was from all the other nurses. She entered Steve’s room early one morning, gently walked up to his bed, delicately gathered his face in her hands and whispered softly to him telling him how beautiful he was and how well he was doing. She then walked to the end of his bed, put your hands over his feet and sent love to his body. She continued to do this throughout the day as she went about her tasks of changing IVs, checking his vitals, and moving him around to make him more comfortable. This beautiful nurse was doing exactly what our little family had been doing. She was encouraging Steve to live.
Her name was Rebecca. I remember how amazed we were the minute she walked in, shared her love with Steve, bowed to him and then walked out. I think we even cried a little because we felt so safe, encouraged, and relieved by her presence. We began to request her often after that. Each time she was his day nurse, we felt a deep sense of relief. We would sit and talk with her at Steve’s bedside and she would gently and quietly comfort us. She always had a kind, sweet smile on her face. We knew we needed her as much as Steve did. And, she knew it, too.
We were finding miracles in the ICU. Life there was becoming oddly routine. We were finding our weirdly rhythmic pace with life and death as it swirled around us. Creating a room full of love and a visit from an angel made it possible to be there yet another day.