I hate this week. I’ve re-lived this week for 7 times now, each year. Everytime I forget bits, the names of the nurses, what we ate, the timing of when my brother from another mother was moved to a side room of the hospital. It was then we knew he wouldn’t be coming round and we were saying goodbye.
13 February 2020. I’m trying to fall asleep. Suddenly I can’t breathe. I’m sat up on my knees thinking how I short life is and my own mortality scares the fuck out of me. This happens a few times a month. I knew it would probably happen this week. It was bound to.
The week he died we camped in a small room in ICU. I made a bed from two plastic chairs facing each other. It was where the night before they decided they could do no more for Luke, I snapped at the moaning of his estranged father about a light flashing which I had coped with for the past few days, when he’d comfortably slept in a hotel with his new girlfriend.
I have one photo from that whole time on my phone. I don’t know if it’s right to have a kodak moment when someone’s had cardiac arrest and never come round. But there we have it. It’s of his housemates and cousins playing cards. Taken from where I sat on a line of plastic chairs under which we would also lie to nap.
And so, in the early hours of Thursday this week, I reached for a book. Some might say it probably isn’t good to read about the life of a junior doctor when you’re thinking about a traumatic event in ICU. But let me tell you, it was comfort.
‘Breaking and Mending’ made me cry. It made me sob so much. Dr Jo Cannon led me by the hand back to the hospital. There was even mention of relatives camping in a side room. Bam! Her amazing writing and compassion, tells how she retrained as a doctor, was given a place as a wild card. To then treating patients who have terminal cancer in their thirties and those who don’t even want to acknowledge the words, cancer or hospice. Dealing with seriously ill psychiatric patients who need care which isn’t immediately available to them.
In a week where the buzzwords are “be kind”, then the start is with Dr Jo. Patients can be treated with medicine. But people need kindness, too. Especially in their final moments.
Thank you Jo, I won’t be looking into a career in medicine anytime soon, but your words have definitely helped my heart this week. Thank you for sharing your darkest times.
On Friday, I’ll remember Luke (even though for us he died on the Sunday really. That’s when his pupils blew and he left us.) His organs went on to help others and his life is still celebrated today. I hate that he’s not here to tell me off for fucking this up, or that I can’t share a pizza with him in Muswell Hill. That’s the hardest part.