Some stay for weeks and never have anyone with them. Others never have family leave the hospital. The vented patients when coming up are so grateful, so aware of the love that surrounds them, and I feel it brings them back. Then those that are alone so often never wake up, their lives effectively over- as no one that wants them to come back and resume their lives. Often these are the ones that I find compelling- what made them get to that point? What made them so alone?
Dr. W. remained vented for well over 2 months- his family loving him, his grandson driving up from Notre Dame to watch every game in his Granddads room, sitting next to him, giving him the blow by blow account of the game, cheering for the usual victory-sharing with his Granddad even though there was no obvious response. Dr. W's neuro status was questionable at best. Late one night when I was in his room, he began to track and I told him what a wonderful dad and granddad he must be, as his family was there, had been there and was so obviously in love with him- his eyes lit up, and he smiled over the vent.
Dr. W never made it home, but his change to his next life was bathed in love. His was a life well lived and more importantly, loved.
This past weekend, we had a patient that had WNV- this in itself was surprising, as his is one of 4 cases we saw in MI 2 years ago. He had a caretaker that was amazing- his attention to Mr. J was more then impressive. Being somewhat slow, I did not figure out that they were actually lovers, or had been before this horrific event occurred. He blamed himself- no amount of convincing and praise for his care was enough to change his mind. He made it out of the CICU, and became (surprisingly) floor status, and it was during this walk that his partner told me their story.
They had been together for over 18 years- met at a Jazz festival in early 1991- and he moved from Canada to be with Mr. J. They were happy and all things good until WNV hit in 2007. When this happened, it struck hard and fast, ravaging his body and brain equally. He went to n extended care facility and almost died in the 3 days he was there post initial hospitalization.
At this point, his partner decided that he would take care of Mr. J - forgoing his life, even if he did not say this to even himself. Mr. J was unable to communicate, save for small looks and a sly smile. He has the softest of laughs- one that spoke volumes about him, his being and why his lover stayed so close to his side. It was clear to me- he did not sleep the entire time he was there- so aware of every move the staff made, being kind to all, yet ensuring that nothing would harm his love. I told him how lucky Mr. J was to have him, and his comment back brought tears to my eyes.
"I am the lucky one- I want to keep him alive as long as possible, as when he goes, a larger part of me goes along with him."