Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Human Dramas Played out in Hospitals' Icus

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Human Dramas Played out in Hospitals' Icus

Article excerpt

THE PEOPLE sitting right this minute in the intensive care unit waiting rooms in hospitals do just that - they wait.

They wait for two-hour blocks of time to pass, so they may spend 15 minutes at the bedside of a relative in the ICU. They wait for a doctor to come with news. They wait for other family members and friends to show up and sit for a while with them.

While they wait, they talk softly among themselves. Sometimes, they sit silently. They stare vacantly at the wall. They flip through magazines. They turn up the television set and then neglect to watch the program.

They take turns answering the telephone, carefully writing down any message if the party receiving the call is out of the room.

Sometimes, they give in just briefly to the emotional strain caused by all the waiting - and the reason for having to wait in the first place - and they cry softly. Rarely does anyone break down.

I know all this because I spent several days in an ICU waiting room earlier this month with the family of a close friend.

Sitting there, hour after hour, I was embarrassed to realize that I'd never thought about ICU waiting rooms or the people waiting there until I was in one. Human dramas, angst-ridden matters of life and death, play out in these rooms every day, in hospitals all over this city. and every other city.

No matter what sort of lives the people in the rooms were living yesterday, they have set those lives aside now to come sit and wait. No matter what the outcome for the specific patient, the lives of those in the waiting room also change forever. And no matter what emotional price those who wait must pay, they pay it in the company of strangers.

The individual families rarely mingle, rarely interrupt or interfere with other families in the waiting room. Yet everyone there is part of an odd little community, one in which the members change from day to day. …

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