The ICU on the 4th floor is a round room, it’s eight patients like short spokes of a large hubbed wheel, feet facing the hub. There would be 12 spokes, except at opposite sides of the periphery are large double doors through which oscillates the transient community of the ICU. The fours spokes on each side of the double doors are enclosed, small rooms with their own doors opening to the hub: the suites. The suites are occupied by those for whom infection is most deadly; those who have no white cells to provide protection against infectious marauders. Twenty-three year old Hector’s suite is opposite Aaron’s; their feet face each other.
Hector’s mother, widowed a year ago and usually these last weeks surrounded by a warm and supportive family, sits alone in the waiting room down the hall from the ICU sobbing quietly. Anne crosses the room, sits beside her, wraps her in arms that know the meaning of sorrow. Hector was diagnosed with AML in January. Apparently beating the odds at home on leave from the hospital 3 weeks ago, a small infection in his lungs qualified him for his suite a week before Aaron claimed his. The infection did not stay small for long. Hector’s mother is told today of the extent of his lung damage.
At about 2 pm, we are shooed from the ICU as the tracheotomy scheduled 3 hours ago is performed. It’s a funny thing about medical interventions: they are messy, bloody affairs that the intervenors quite adamantly insist be hidden from those who are the beneficiaries. Aaron must be cleaned and tidied before we are allowed to see the spanking new tube protruding from his throat and connecting him to the Ventilator.
Cleaning for the surgery and tidying up afterwards has claimed most of his beard. No need for a razor; you can get a good shave with a washcloth and a week of poison therapy.
Aaron’s suite is too small for the surgeon’s portable surgimobile and the Urinator. The Urniator is disconnected. It is taken away, and not returned. Aaron is going on his own.
Still unable to take the elevator trip to the basement, Aaron’s abdomen is scanned with a portable ultrasound wheeled into his suite.
Early in the morning, Aaron’s sedative was reduced to the point of awareness, and a repeat performance of gagging spasms of last week; blood pressure shooting up to 200, racing heart, breath rate nearly 50. He is quickly returned to deeper sleep, and for the rest of the day he is stable, accepting the tracheostomy without a hitch.