The Life and Death of 4 coma patients – 1,000 words

Ok, a week or so ago I was scrolling through my reader and saw JT Carlton’s COLOR BY WORDS SLEEPING BEAUTY challenge to write a story about a coma patient. The thing is…I work with them daily. The worst part, I work at a children’s hospital. These are four of my patients that particularly stuck out to me. I know their names, but obviously can’t share them so I was late posting this story because my first draft just made me cry, and then I had to hone it 1,000 words because I like rules (at least ones I can follow).

16 year old female in a medically induced coma after overdosing:

“Shit, Shit, SHIT”! I’m struggling to scream, but I can’t move.  “Fuck”! Why is it so dark”?

I try to orient myself to the room. “FUCK”! I said it again, trying to force my lips to form the words.

It’s still dark, and I still can’t move. I think I’m hyperventilating, but all I can hear is incessant beeping, shuffling feet, and –  in the distance – my mother – crying.

My mother never cries. “Shit, she knows I took her meds…ugh…..I was supposed to die”!

I’m aware that I can not move – not even to open my eyes.  Some lady’s voice speaks assuringly to me, “Honey, we’re going to inject such and such so you’re more comfortable”. Why does she even bother. “I’m in a coma dipshit”! Well, if I scream it to myself does it count?

Everything goes black again.

The next time I awoke it was quiet. I am numb all over. Suddenly, I’m aware that wherever I am smells like iodine, alcohol, and plastic tubing. The only beeping sound now is a steady beat – my heart beat. Every so often something at the bottom of the bed vibrates. This is a hospital. I just want to die. I just want to die. Why didn’t they let me die?

10 year old male in and out of consciousness:

The last time one happened I felt it. I felt my whole body start to shudder. It began on my left side and before I could scream, my whole body shook so hard as if an earthquake began in my head. I felt the warmth of my father’s hand on my arm throughout, but he was as powerless as I was to stop it. My body felt so cold it made me wonder if my shaking was really just shivering. It finally stopped. I don’t know what they gave me to stop it, but it worked and I went to back to sleep.

I don’t know how long I was out, but I felt worse when I came to despite what felt like a long rest. I already knew my cancer had relapsed. I already knew I had to fight as hard as I could for my parents. Every so often I’d hear my mom read the Bible to me at my bedside, and – comforted – would fall back to sleep. I’d hear dad and mom speak to another doctor and wondered how their faces looked as they heard the news.

They wouldn’t speak to me about it. They’d talk about baseball, our service dog, Sam, and my little brother Alex. Sometimes I felt awake, sometimes my entire body was in so much pain I couldn’t move, sometimes I would try to speak, but my lips were cracked and dry, and sometimes I wanted to hug my family, then let them go. I didn’t know where I would go after that. Sometimes I felt it couldn’t be worse than this.

14 month old female:

I have a big sister. She looks exactly like me. I remember seeing her inside my mother’s belly, as we were both rushed towards the light together. This world is so beautiful. Mommy and daddy smiled at us all the time. Mommy sang to me while cooking supper. Daddy told me I was his precious sunshine and my sister was his cool moonshine.

One day I felt warm. I was tired and wanted more attention so I cried, and I didn’t stop crying. My head hurt and my mom and dad rushed me to the hospital. They were so good. They must have known something wasn’t right.

Here in the hospital all of the lights are bright – even at night. I couldn’t see them, but I felt them. I felt how bright it was in the room. I felt the love my parents felt for me, but I was sad. I couldn’t tell them that I knew about their love and that I wasn’t afraid. I couldn’t tell my sister she was going to have to help them feel better without me. I am daddy’s sun and I had to go back to the sky.  I just hope the night won’t be too dark now for him to see the moon.

16 year old female:

Most parents fight about finances, career changes, who has to put the groceries away, etc… However, my parents have always fought about me. What was the right treatment to give me? Would they lose “me” to that drug? How long would it take my hair grow back? Are those twitches seizures? Should we call the doctor in everytime we see a change? After so long, they give up the fights they try to hold onto -the fights that give them a respite from their fear of losing me.

Today, the room is dead silent. I can feel them reading in their separate corners. Something about today is different. I’m sixteen years old. It is not my birthday, but the day that I decided to stop suffering. Today is the day that I have decided to let go. I fought for what seemed like forever trying to use my recovery as a hail mary to save their marriage. Today I’m giving up that fight. I hear mom and dad both telling their favorite stories about me. Then a long silence settles on the room before they let me know one last time how much I am loved. I absorbed their words and carried them in my heart before I turned to leave.

I’m in my favorite field with all of my friends getting ready to play softball. I can’t believe what a beautiful day it is outside. The sun is tracing the outlines of the oak trees nearby and I’m headed out to left center to field the ball. I haven’t been outside in months. It’s a perfect day to smile. So I do.

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