Tuesday, July 17, 2012
My daughter greets me at the door with a wiffle ball cradled in both hands. My son follows closely with his fingers wrapped around the thin plastic stem below the fat end of a bat. My wife slips past and kisses me on the cheek as she makes a beeline towards the garage to run errands. I persuade the kids to follow up the stairs so I can change my rounding clothes for more comfortable shorts. It's a sunny Saturday morning and the air is still cool.
I clip my pager onto my pants, and curl the blue tooth around my ear. We rush out the door, and my son and daughter fight over the bat. They have no interest in the hollow white sphere with the three air holes at the top. I wait for a moment before intervening. As I am about to jump between them my pager starts to buzz.
I sit down on the deck and dial the the number to the ICU hesitantly. I lean on my left hand as my right clenches the ball. A nurse answers the phone. After my visit a few hours ago, the patient's blood pressure started to drop and the temperature rise. I bark a few orders before being interrupted by call waiting and my vibrating pager simultaneously.
I click the call waiting and watch my children. My daughter has dropped the bat and is now digging in the dirt with a child size trow. My son has turned on the hose and is sloppily watering the plants. The pulmonologist is worried. The lactic acid is elevated and they are about to intubate. We agree that I should call the cardiologist. I leave a message with the answering service and dial the ignored number from my pager.
The patient's daughter is frantic. Her fear and anger are evident in the vibrations of her voice as I strain to hear over my son who is yelling past the fence to the next door neighbor. I pin the ball under my hand and push downward with increasing power as it rolls forward to escape the compressive force.
We talk about end of life wishes. We talk of signs and symptoms, probabilities and prognosis. The out come is too unclear at the moment. I click over and leave her waiting as I answer the call back from the cardiologist. He's in the building and will be in the ICU shortly. They might need to open up the cath lab.
The sweat drips down my brow as the sun rises and the temperature creeps higher. My son and daughter are crouched in the corner. I can't see the extent of their mischief. The ball has picked up dirt from the deck, and is taking on a brownish black hue. I throw it against the floor violently, and catch it as it comes racing towards me. The patient's daughter has surrendered the phone to the nurse. The pressure is stabilizing but the sats are starting to drop despite intubation. The X-Ray tech is on the way from radiology.
The nurse then gives the phone to the patient's son. My daughter has snuck behind me and sticks her finger under my arm. She laughs devilishly. I pull back and stare at her malevolently. I shoe her away with the ball glued to my hand like a a magnet stuck to metal.
The patient's son is despondent. He wants to withdraw life support. I ask if his sister is in agreement. Again, I excuse myself to answer call waiting.
The cardiologist says that it's a no go.
She's way too unstable.
I click back to the son. Everyone is in agreement. Seconds later, I give the nurse orders for a morphine drip. The tube is removed. My son is tugging at my arm. I speak to him distractedly as I look helplessly towards the sky.
Hold on, I'm almost done!
The nurse reports that the monitor has flat lined. I speak soothingly to the daughter. My son is becoming more persistent. He is really pulling on my arm now.
I hang up the phone and explode in his direction.
What's so important?
I'm frustrated and sweaty, sad and emotionally worn out. My child becomes sheepish while his sister joins him on the deck. He won't look me in the eyes. He speaks quietly, almost in a whisper.
The wiffle ball has torn open at the seems, and my finger is stuck on the inside. A trickle of blood stains the pristine white edges.
I look at the precious angelic faces in front of me.
It's been an hour and a half, and I haven't noticed that the temperature has risen to a hundred. I only now see that my daughter's face is smeared with dirt instead of sunscreen.
It's another Saturday,
and once again I've ignored my children.
Posted by Jordan Grumet at 9:29 PM