Family medical emergency (again)

Another relative already in hospital is rushed to intensive care (yesterday). For the 3rd-4th time. We all thought he was on the mend (for the 3rd or 4th time). Friday evening plans are quickly jettisoned in the nervous dash to hospital. With such a fluctuating condition, its best not to speculate about what we might encounter when we get there.

Serious illness at this time of the year has a surreal quality. Amidst all the bright lights, the festive buzz, the meet up, stalks the serious matter of malfunctioning organs. Then again, withing less than a day’s drive or an hour’s flying time to the north, is territory held by a cult of death. Something we like to forget about – particularly during this time of the year..

We get to hospital and try to placate stressed relatives with logistical support. Medical parent arrives and deals with the specifics of intensive care. More time in the waiting room. Walls tiled beige like a toilet. Hard beige plastic chairs bolted to the wall to prevent them from unauthorised travel. More relatives arrive. Everyone seems tired. Conversation slides uncontrollably into tales of other fatal family illnesses and congenital conditions. Feels like very deja vu – even when its not.

This time though the illness is not exactly curable. Mainly because the cause is unknown. A total recovery is not expected. Medical parent is quite clear about that – which is not what anyone wants to hear. The best is to focus on keeping the patient’s condition stable. Another question is whether to summon offspring from other continents. Specially since the patient has been conscious, lucid, and fortunately not in pain through out the whole process. All this makes it hard to focus on the positive. Down the dimly lit empty corridor, mulit coloured lights on a plastic Christmas tree blinks obliviously. Life goes on.

Sitting in the paleness of the florescent lights, we have conversations about the present situation. Everyone carefully avoiding overt mention of anything involving mortality. I have never been in this sort of situation before. Yet its amazing how easy it is not to talk around the proverbial elephant in the room. Perhaps its the fear of saying anything irresponsibly inauspicious.

We finally get to go into the intensive care unit under the guidance of medical parent. Cold and silent accept for a lot of beeping equipment. Nurses hum efficiently about plotting data on graphs. There is something inherently disturbing about seeing a relative with an oxygen mask and all sorts of tubes snaking under sheet from various gadgets surrounding the bed. Particularly when all your life you have known the patient as someone whose voice carries and generally has something interesting to say. This time the patient is not interested chatting – just concerned about having his shaving kit at hand for tomorrow morning. As Sri Lankan as we are, my family can do the stiff upper lip better than the British.

With the patient under close monitoring there’s nothing much we can do. We give the patient’s spouse a ride home for a wash and change. The issues of health costs for this type of care crosses everyone’s mind but that is a mountain left to climb another day.

Anything as I type this, the patient’s condition has thankfully improved. Slightly – according to medical parent’s guarded description.

This is turning out to be the oddest December of my life.


6 thoughts on “Family medical emergency (again)

  1. Hello Cerno,
    I hope your relative is on the mend by now.
    Reading your post, for some unknown reason reminded me of an article I read. It states that the last thing you should talk about with when visiting a patient, is his/her current health! Talk about anything else under the sun as if you had just come to see him after a while.
    Don’t go asking “Dan Kohomada?”/ “how are you now?” The patient is coerced into answering “Hondai”.
    Probably it’s irrelevant. But don’t brush it off your shoulder without a think!
    Again, Hope the relative is doing fine now!


  2. Half Doctor: Thank you for the tip 🙂
    The crazy thing we hardly get to see the patient who is now plugged into intensive care. Most of the discussion is with his spouse and other relatives. But yes – if we do get to talk to him its usually on other things.


  3. You’re very right about the dislocation of serious illness in this festive time. My mom is in intensive care right now, having had two abdominal surgeries in three days, and it’s hard to be the child too far to just drop in and visit. As I type, I’m waiting for word of whether her condition is such that I need to be there as quickly as I can – not an easy thing to do in a season when everyone is traveling and filling up planes for happy reasons.

    My thoughts are with you and your family.


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