December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Ineffectual Gesture

My granddad had a stroke last Tuesday and is now in a coma. He may never wake up.

The media descended on the ITU almost immediately, followed soon after by the politicians. I arrived, tired and disorientated, direct from England, only after the press had been picking at the news for days.

I know it's bad because almost the whole family has gathered, even the cousin I haven't seen in four years because he moved to America.

We visit twice a day, even after midnight. My aunt, the more spiritual among us, reads prayers in English and Tibetan. She brings monks to chant some more, at least every second day. I've given up trying to understand the spiritual world, but the Tibetan prayers somehow calm the nerves, taking the edge off.

The rest of us whisper into his ear and hold his hand, and on good days we get a few twitches in his fingers, one every few minutes, and we talk more about everything, anything, because we hope he can hear us, and because silence would be an admission of defeat.

On other days, when there's been no response, we sit and stare, trying to divine his fate from the lines running across the screen. So what if his blood pressure has gone up by 12/8? What difference is it that he has a ventricular ectopic after every 8 heartbeats instead of after 9? It's a pointless, futile endeavour - Mum and Dad know it, I know it, the cousins and aunts know it, the doctors know it - but we all do it anyway, because on bad days, the monitor and the chart are the only link we have to him.

Questions are asked - Should we resuscitate if he has a cardiac failure? How long do we want to wait for him to wake up? Four years of training seem useless as I try to help come up with answers.I explain how resuscitation can leave people with broken ribs and punctured lungs, and how it may be better to not resuscitate. As the words leave my mouth, I feel like I've betrayed him.

We visit again, arriving in ITU after midnight and staying for hours, watching the lines move slowly across the screen as the machine pumps air into and our of his lungs. It's an ineffectual gesture, accomplishing nothing. But it's all we can do to show we care, and by God or Buddha or the powers that be, we will do it for as long as we can.