Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Phone Call

A statue of Jesus at the entrance of St. Joseph’s hospital

This afternoon I got a phone call from Darryl. He told me that Laura, a friend of ours, was in the hospital and wasn't doing too well. Actually he was told she wouldn't last the week. Darryl had just found out about Laura's condition and location just a few minutes before calling me and understandably, seemed pretty shaken up by the news. He was packing for a trip to Montreal at the time and I was getting ready to attend a meeting for Juicy Stuff.

He asked if I wanted to go visit. I really hate hospitals. I'm not sure if it's the smell or the crappy florescent lighting. The idea of a clinically smelly medical building, I think, freaked me out more than seeing a patient. The idea of death and hospitals really didn't enter my mind at the time. Death is really for funeral homes. Hospitals on the other hand are where you are if you still have some sort of chance, you're in the process of getting repaired or you're being born. It wasn't until I stepped through the front door that all those shows of Emergency! started pouring into my conscious brain. People can also be in the hospital being kept alive in some uncomfortable state. That didn't sit well with me. I started feeling more uncomfortable.

Dying is not a good thing. Sure it's part the whole life cycle. We live, we die. I suppose the way we go out can be pretty depressing and even unsettling. I think the thing that affects me more is how the people around the dying make me feel. Like a big black cloud hovering over them you can't help but be sucked into being sad. That said, I wasn't going to let Darryl go by himself.

At the hospital we met up with Rob Pincomb and the three of us gathered the courage to go find Laura's room after visiting the local coffee shop. Somewhere on one of the upper floors we found the room number. Darryl walked in then walked right back out. After a short pause he walked back in to ask the guy sitting in the room next to the bed if the woman in the bed was Laura. It was.

It took a second glance to realize that it really was Laura. She had turned pretty yellow thanks to her liver not working properly plus she had tubes sticking out of her. I really wasn't prepared to see her in that state. The last time I saw her was years ago. She was one of those people that could make other people light up by joking around being all animated while doing a goofy voice that she thought she had to use while talking to guinea-pigs.

Darryl, Rob, Laura, and me all in the same room. We haven't been in the same room since Bruce's wedding (2002?) and before that working on the interactive NHL hockey rulebook CD-rom (around 1994 or so). In a way it was nice to be in the same room. I started visualizing Laura barking commands at Darryl and Rob, flapping her arms and squealing with glee at some of Bruce's drawings.

Laura was unconscious. It made it difficult to talk to her. I read somewhere that the last sense to go is hearing so I greeted her out loud and introduced Darryl and Rob. She started breathing hard. Maybe the joke that Rob was hitting on her mom didn't go over well. Rob tried to up people's spirits with a bit of his own levity. Unfortunately the whole being in a hospital under these circumstances nulled whatever attempt he made. Kind of like joking about drowning a bag of kittens.

Laura had more visitors show up. I felt uncomfortable when they started talking to Laura's mom about Laura while Laura was lying just a few feet away. It's hard to include a semi-unconscious person in a conversation but I thought they could take the conversation outside the room at least. Afterall she was still alive.

There was a dark somber feel to the room. When we met Chris, Laura's mom, she was glad that we showed up and that we finally got to meet. Laura is originally from British Columbia so I never actually met her parents prior to this. After about 40 minutes of looking around the room, watching Darryl and Rob try interact with Laura, her mother and her boyfriend I had to go. I leaned over to Laura and said "Good bye" then did the good-bye circuit to all that were there and made my way to the elevator.

As a paramedic you're supposed to treat the patient with a positive attitude saying that everything will be alright. It gives the patient hope and maybe some encouragement. Hope is sometimes the small thing that tips the scales in the patients favour between living and not.

I'm not good at bluffing and at the time found it difficult to talk to Laura. Saying "Good bye" had a finality to it. In my mind, there was no happy outcome or miracle to be happening anytime soon. Tubes were stuck into her, her arms had what looked like lacerations and she had a hard time breathing. I knew I wasn't going to see her again after this visit.

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