Sep 1, 2012

Watching Someone You Love Suffer

I’ve been writing a lot about suffering lately. I realize that there are more cheerful things to write about but few as powerful. The truth is I would rather suffer myself than watch someone I love suffer. After what I have seen in the last 48 hours I would also say that being beside that bed in ER and in ICU is like watching a horror movie in which the images are so disturbing that you have to turn the TV off or change the channel; the obvious difference being that in real life you cannot go backward or forward when time freezes you right there in that awful moment.
And anyone who has been through the maze that is our medical system can tell you that there are days when you think they will stabilize and although they will never be back to themselves or on their way home; they are still somewhat okay or as best as can be expected. The light in their eyes is present and their personalities, sarcasm, jokes and all are in full swing. They just don’t feel so well and it becomes this rollercoaster of constantly being at the hospital other than work and lying awake at night at home and every day is different even though it is mostly the same.
The diagnosis changes and then changes again. The fire alarm is pulled and you all come running and the water is still dripping, more damage has been done but the structure is still miraculously standing and you wonder “How long can they hang on?” “How long can we hang on?”
And the family either unites or goes at one another with daggers. I am happy to say that we united and support one another and walk side by side with only our loved ones best interest at hand. As the end grows closer and the body starts to give in, give up and deteriorate, the person begins to vanish. The light has long since left their eyes, the face becomes almost glued and stuck in one single sad expression, the hands and feet grow cold and the confusion becomes their reality.

All of the families surrounding ours look as if they were taken on a long bus ride – the windows left closed, the stops for breaks few and far between, the ability to sleep sitting up and in constant motion impossible and no appetite for anything except prayers, prayers that are asked each morning before seeing the changes from the night before and each night wondering what will happen before we get there the next day and prayers that change as time goes on.
First you pray for a good outcome and that they will be home soon. Then you find out they are never coming home so you pray for them to deal with it and not be afraid and for the system to place them somewhere safe and clean. Then you deal with a sudden crisis, worse than the first one which was an accident or a medical condition that put them there in the first place. This crisis is a sudden shift in their condition and its downhill from there. So you pray for time and for things to turn around. Then you realize that time is running out and that something that only knows the motion of forward can never turn around.
And toward the end you begin to pray for the one thing you prayed against because you have seen it all and neither you nor they can take it anymore.
So you pray for a kind, gentle exit and you pray against suffering and carrying on with no quality of life.
And you pray that you will remember the magical moments of a life well lived rather than those final images of the little that is left of them that isn’t them at all.
In our lifetimes you will suffer and so will I but watching a loved one suffer is far worse. 

Sending strength to all those coping with pain and inevitable loss.

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