I had my first visit to an intensive care ward over the Easter weekend, visiting someone who was in there.
I was struck by how serene it is, and – obviously I guess – high tech. Each bed is surrounded by machinery – syringe drivers, drip stands, ventilators, and banks of monitors showing vital signs, etc. Despite this, it is all very quite and peaceful. The alarms on the machine are fairly subtle beeps, and the whole feel of the place was very open and calm. Nobody rushed around – the nurses going from around and about were walking. Even when someone did need attention it was all done in a calm and measured fashion.
I guess it’s partly that in intensive care, the machines are doing most of the work and everything is tightly controlled. The person who I was visiting was in an induced coma, with their breathing being done by a machine, and their heart rate and blood pressure controlled by drugs. Depsite all the tubes and wires, and the fact they were unconscious, there was a diginity and respect about it all, somehow. It was almost pleasant, bizarrely, to sit there for an hour or two, at their bedside, with the gentle bustle going on around us.
I have no doubt that there are moments of high drama and elevated activity, and of course heartache and death. But while I was in there, it either didn’t happen, or happened sufficiently discretely that I didn’t notice it.
It was also interesting to observe how different people deal with and responded to the situation. I personally felt drawn to be introspective, while others tried to externalise it. It is a bit like there was an emptiness, and you either choose to stare down it, or tried to fill it.
I guess as a part of my ministry I can expect a few more visits to intensive care (although hopefully not as a close relative), and at the moment it’s looking like the person I was visiting is at least heading towards the edge of the woods, if not out of them yet.