When Morning Comes to the Neuro-ICU

When Morning Comes to the Neuro-ICU

The view from my husband’s room in the ICU is beautiful. Greenery, architecture; water that shimmered in crisp blues before darkening into the horizon yesterday afternoon is now the heather gray of the lightening sky, reflecting the brilliant oranges and yellows of the rising sun.

It’s beautiful, but inconvenient. Laying the in ICU, he doesn’t want to admire the view. He doesn’t want to watch the sunrise. He wants the one thing forbidden by the design of neurosurgery recovery– sleep. Each time he manages to drift off, another sudden noise, another exam, another doctor asking questions that seem disrespectfully loud. The machines disturb him on their own accord, squeezing his legs or arm, motors whirring as they record more information, clicking quietly as they maintain the flow of his IV.

Not far away our children are asleep, arms around each other. They are oblivious to the rising sun, peaceful despite the stress of yesterday. They know their father is okay, we are through what was the worst for us, the waiting, and into what is worst for him– this room without rest. Time in the ICU is glacial, moving so slowly as to seem immeasurable, but never giving way, pressing ever on with the next unnecessary disturbance, the unyielding rising of the sun over the lake on what looks like a glorious August day, the waves of hunger and nausea and pain and exhaustion, and somehow, more waiting.

“You need to stop writing and get some rest,” my nine-year-old told me before promptly falling asleep at my side. The night before, she chided my father when he commented negatively on her window’s view. “Stop making comparisons,” she said. “Enjoy the moment.” She humbles me.

Her twin sister was up latest with me last night, but even then was asleep before 10 PM, a small miracle when all children are asleep so quickly in their own beds, and nearly unthinkable given our current circumstances. Curled against me in the dark, she whispered, “I’m glad you’ve explained what’s going on, it really helps me not to be afraid. You’re a good parent, Mommy.”

I carried that with me during my walk back into the hospital at dawn.

This is our third time here, and in many ways, we are working out the bugs. Things are going well that never have before. He is improving visibly all the time, the idea that twenty-four hours after slicing into his brain while he lay awake and understanding he will be walking slowly around the ICU floor seems reasonable, expected.

In a few hours the children will be here, awake and dressed and smelling of the last gasp of summer, with boxes of donuts and smiles and tablets, ready to spend their day here, taking their turns by their father’s bed, waiting for him to be moved to a quieter room where he can rest and heal, where they can bring him balloons and cards, and know he is safe and peaceful when they must leave him here to return home to the cats, to school, to a house where he will be soon.

Like their father they are greedy for what sleep they can get, and I have lowered the blinds, one of the few truly useful things I can do for him now.

The morning sun is like a poem read aloud at his bedside. This is not the time, but isn’t it a miracle?



Read more about sunrise at the hospital here: How Love Lasts Forever When the Great Lakes Can’t

Read my most recent post here: “What Happens if Daddy Dies?” Parenting through Glioblastoma

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