Thursday, January 17, 2013

Self Care During Family Medical Crisis: Part 3 At the Hospital Emergency Room

This is the third part in a series in which I am focusing on the personal lessons of self-care during family medical crisis.  The previous blogs in the series can be found here:

Having deployed for more than 30 catastrophic disasters in my career, I thought of my trip as a deployment.  I assumed the first few days would feel chaotic, but all would settle into a routine fairly soon. I was mentally prepared for the initial discomforts. 

When I arrived at the hospital it was after midnight.  The scene was shocking but not unexpected.  I am surprised by how calmly I was able to absorb the reality.   I think I was still in shock. Seeing DCR was somehow comforting yet distressing at the same time.  I can deal with most anything if I have data and seeing DCR was sufficient for the time being.  The worst feeling was helplessness.   I felt there was nothing I could do to make things better for DCR aside from being present, and that did not seem like enough.

DCR’s sister (DCRS) was staying in the ER with DCR.  DCR’s Mom (DCRM) was at a nearby hotel getting some much needed rest (we hoped).  If DCR took a turn for the worst it would have been devastating for DCRS, so I stayed overnight with her and DCR in support.  I was grateful that I could be near DCR.  Throughout the night I kept one hand on her foot, just to let her know she was not alone.  Frequently I whispered words of love, hope, comfort and support to her. 

Routine checks on DCR and nurse questions by necessity kept us awake. The sounds in the ER never stopped, making sleep difficult. Some sounds fell into the background while others lead to a startled wakening.  More than once DCRS and I lifted our heads when startled, looked into each other’s eyes for reassurance, and seeing no cause for alarm, put our heads back down.  Sleeping in a chair was difficult.  A thoughtful nurse brought me a pillow so I would have something soft to lean against.  I think DCRS and I rested with closed eyes more than we slept. I might have gotten one hour of solid sleep just before the morning activities led to increased traffic into DCR’s room.

In the early morning DCR was moved to the Intensive Care Unit.  We (DCRM, DCRS and I) were allowed to see her for a short while after DCR was settled in to her room.  The only change in scene was the type of bed. Our hearts were heavy as we returned to the ICU waiting room.  We wanted to be with DCR.  Even though she was not awake, we wanted for DCR to know she was not alone.

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