Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The ICU CareTaker Waiting Area - a very human place.

For almost every patient in an ICU there is a caretaker waiting. They are called upon every now and then - to sign consent forms for treatments, in case of sudden detoriation or for a short visit. Each call is one of hope and of fear. At the Apollo hospital there is a special waiting area for such attendants. There are about a hundred recliners lined up for them to rest on during the day and sleep on at night. There are no rules written anywhere but a certain decorum is followed and camaradere develops.

My first night at the waiting area - I walked in and looked for a spot. Two women saw me and motioned to a seat next to them. I was quiet but they wanted to know everything. They had been there for over two weeks and seemed to know everyone and everything. I was alone and they took me under their wing. I tried to work on my laptop - keeping myself distracted while my mother slept under sedation. They started having dinner and insisted I join them. I politely refused multiple times and continued to type. Minutes later a piece of chicken wrapped in naan was handfed to me. I opened my mouth more in surprise than in wanting to eat. The woman next to me wanted to make sure I ate. She handfed me a few more bites. It was very unexpected, very Indian and the kindest thing a stranger had done to me in a long time. I was initiated into the ICU waiting area.

Seven days later I make sure I talk to anyone who sits near me or pauses near the water cooler. I let them tell me their story. I tell them it will all be ok. I talk about the people who got better during the week. I don't handfeed them chicken and naan but I always think about that moment and try to do my part.