I feel almost bedridden today, consumed by a great sense of mourning. I grieve for the first boy i loved, the death of a friendship and the unexpected death of a patient.
His body was crippled with cerebral palsy. From the moment of birth, life was about survival and ultimately, being physically different. At first glance, I instinctively knew he was sick. His body fighting an infection that would require surgery to remove the source. His very attentive parents were at his bedside willing their strength into his body. With his CP, it was difficult to understand his speech, but I tried. It took me a few minutes but was beginning to adjust my ear to the patterns and timber of his voice. I stroked his hair, and asked about his pain, assuring him that I was going to everything I could to make what I had to do less painful.
The nurse who was turning his care over to me had done everything in her power to do the same. Her concern was evident in her eyes. Nurses’ eyes. They speak volumes in a glance when you know the language.
The father’s eyes also spoke to me. They were red rimmed with fought back tears. I asked how old his son was when he had surgery as a child. His dad remembered because he was deployed for the Persian Gulf War.
I thanked him for his service. It was Veterans Day.
The flight went without incident. He slept most of the way. We arrived in the ICU and I gave report while we moved his light body from the stretcher to the bed. The nurse asked his parents’ names, and if they were on their way. I told her the mother’s but apologized for not knowing the father’s.
He said something. I didn’t understand at first but walked to the head of the bed, leaned over, and stroked his hair with my fingertips. I asked him to tell me again, and this time I understood. He was telling me his dad’s name. I smiled and repeated what he said to make sure the nurse heard.
I looked into his blue eyes, with those long lashes and gave his shoulder a small squeeze. I reached up, stroked his hair back from his forehead one last time and told him that I hoped he felt better.
A few hours later, the surgeon realized nothing could be done.
A few hours after that, I woke up and heard that he had died.