“I Hope You Can Hear Me:” Poetry in the ER.


Good Evening:

On Tuesday morning at work, I suffered a minor but excruciatingly painful, no, make that EXCRUCIATINGLY painful medical issue that ended in the ER, with approximately 20 electrodes glued to me, an IV drip administering both an extremely powerful painkiller plus a second drug to counteract the side effects of that painkiller, a barf bag full of goodies, and various and sundry medical implements attached to me or close at hand.

And that was after they had diagnosed and solved the problem.

Which meant that they needed my room for the next ER patient, but they couldn’t discharge me quite yet, so they had to wheel me out of the room and deposit me against a wall in the hallway so they accommodate the next individual.

He was at least 90 years old, well over six feet tall, and he had even more things attached to himself than I had. I did not have two IV drips going at the same time, an oxygen mask, or electrical paddles by my side, and I had never slipped into unconsciousness as he had.

His wife was also attached to him.

Also at least 90 years old, with equally white hair, she was much shorter than him. She sat in a wheelchair to his right, somehow leaning onto his gurney, clutching his right shoulder with both hands, her head next to his, her lips close to his ear. I heard her speaking quite faintly.

“I hope you can hear me.

I’m here for you.

You know I’m here.”

“If you can hear me,

I won’t leave you,

I will never leave you.”

“I know you can’t hear me,

But I always loved you.

I will love you forever.”

Then she grew silent and closed her eyes, still clinging to him.

Vonn Scott Bair


One response »

  1. **Very** glad to read that your medical emergency is resolved! I had 7 hours of unrelenting level 5 to 6 pain (on the 0-10 or 1-10 pain scale everyone uses) at the end of May. I can’t afford to go to the E.R. any more (no insurance). Thought i had found my end. That’s all a whole other story for my blog-that-i-don’t-have.

    Two IV drips is for beginners. At my worst in 2003, they had two of the dual infusion pumps (4 chambers) with an elaborate daisy-chain array of something like 6 to 8 IV bags to get all the stuff into me that they needed to get into me. I was so hooked up i might as well have been an electrical substation (or a core Internet router).

    The approximately 90 year old woman impresses me greatly. I wonder if she knew that hearing is apparently one of the last senses to shut down? Or that speaking in a soft voice right next to a person’s ear dramatically improves the signal-to-noise ratio, which is critical to speak to someone whose brain is shutting down and thus can no longer do all the usual aural signal processing to differentiate desired and undesired sonic input? She may have known one or both those things. She may have been going on intuition. Whatever the case, she could not have more perfectly spoken to him, in his condition.

    Impressed, i am.

    I knew of these things when my father was dying. I advised my brother and mother accordingly. We took turns speaking our last words to him in this way, privately with the others of us out in the hall. I went last. I like to think i spoke encouraging words to him, a positive spin relevant to his world view, to encourage him through the transition he and all of us knew was happening. The day before, we’d tried this, and it all went wrong, ending in an argument out in the hall. He remained alive. This day, everything went smoothly. He died the following night, on a day and time which already before that had profound layers of meaning for me, spanning most of my life.

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