Anne sits with Aaron through a restless night, during which the ventilator was reconnected to give his lungs a rest. His breathing is much improved over the last few days; nearly normal, large volumes and good respiration at about 15 breaths/minute.
By early morning, Aaron is off the ventilator and back to just oxygen. Natalie is playing 20+ questions. Aaron really wants something. Finally, “Do you want to sit up?” “Nod.” Natalie puts in a request, and the Chair is wheeled into Aaron’s suite little before 9:00 am. Unlike coach airline seats which make a mockery of the word “recline”, The Chair reclines to totally flat, allowing Aaron to be slid from his bed to The Chair before sitting him upright. He is strapped in and The Chair moves him to a slightly reclined sitting position. He sits the rest of the way up by himself. He smiles and rocks forward and backward, exercising his torso. “Do you want to talk?” Vigorous “Nod.”
He is suctioned top and bottom. Suctioning the lungs fills the suction tube and produces vigorous coughing, which sprays bloody gunk through the trach tube and around the room. Unlike the coughing of previous days, this coughing is useful. It rids him of gunk and makes him feel better.
The talker valve is placed in the trach tube and Aaron immediately, clearly, without gurgle, in a thin, tremulous, singsong tenor voice, says “Hello.” And then “I can talk! I can talk! I can talk! It’s been so long since I’ve been able to talk.” His eyes, still bloodshot and popped impossibly open to several saucers past “wide-eyed”, sparkle.
The ICU doctor team is making rounds as Aaron sits facing the door of his suite and the team standing outside the door. He smiles at them and moves his hands in applause. “Thank you.” The doctors beam as they seldom do in the ICU. They are winning this round, and they know it.