My son in the ICU: Cruising

Mid-October 2013

It was going to be a good day.

Cory’s nurse asked him if he wanted to do a trip outside. This would be the second time he’d breathed fresh air in the 6 weeks since we’d taken up residence in the ICU. Cory was thrilled. He was trapped inside, trapped in a bed, trapped in a diseased body. The prospect of fresh air and the feeling of sunshine on his skin seemed like a lottery winning.

He did have the corner penthouse of ICU rooms with floor to vaulted ceiling picture windows that allowed him to see the sun and clouds even if the view was of the buildings next door. It gave him the illusion of going beyond. We watched the construction progress on the buildings across take place every day. It was reminiscent of boyhood days gone by to be excited about the cranes and what looked like the acrobatics of the construction workers. We even saw a hawk perched at a distance. We were so impressed that it always happened to be there when we looked out. Always there to visit us. Those windows weren’t the same, though, as actually being outside.

This was not an easy feat to get him outdoors. (God bless his nurse-friend for being willing to orchestrate…) There were 4 of us there to transfer him from his bed to the wheel chair. He could not walk, he could not swing his legs over the side of the bed. We all grabbed the corner of a sheet underneath him. 1, 2, 3…lift and transfer.

We dropped him. I gasped and teared up–he didn’t.

He’d slipped from the edge of the sheet and landed between the bed and the wheelchair.The quick response of his nurse to grab him underneath an arm broke the drop and gave us the time to regrip the sheet so he was unharmed. She directed us how to reposition the sheet around him and we lifted again and he was successfully seated in the wheel chair. Mask hanging on his chin , shades on, hospital gown on….he was ready.

“Lets do this.” he said

As we exited the room, the nurse pushing his chair, me pushing his pole of bags of blood and medication…it felt parade-like. He was grinning from ear to ear and waving to his fans as we cruised around the nurses station. One of the men sitting on the edge of the desk was an ICU physician that had been his doctor a month before, but was rotated out. His eyes were wide with shock. And then he smiled at Cory. He said, “I never thought I’d see this moment…” Then shook Cory’s hand. Cory was healing…again…miraculous. The joy was palpable. You’d think we were going on a cruise.

We pushed him out on the patio, pulled his mask on, and he directed us around the play equipment to where to place the wheelchair. I sat on a bench nearby and just took him in while he took it all in. We just sat.

He eventually pulled down his mask, closed his eyes, and took in a deep breath.

He was happy. We were on the boat. Cruising.

We chatted and made jokes about his cute outfit. We looked at the birds.

Life’s clarity becomes simple in the ICU—true, unabashed gratitude for Breath and Fresh Air.


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