Instead of actual pictures, this post is an image that I, for many reasons, could not record photographically. These reasons will become rapidly apparent when you have read my description. I’ve written this because there is no other moment over the past month that I feel has been more important, and because I have few traditionally pictoral things to offer.
Picture this, then. Resus, in A&E. Three bays, each with their own curtains and assorted equipment. The far left one stands empty, the rightward one has the curtains drawn leaving only the central bed visible. There is the soft bleep of monitors, and the hubbub of majors only a thin wooden door away. A doctor is talking down the phone to some unknown department. Her words are the loudest sound in the room although the room itself is not quiet. The fluorescent lighting casts everything in an unflattering yellow.
In that central bay there is a bed-bound patient, overweight, in her early fifties. Her breathing rattles in her throat as though she is snoring, her eyes are open but they do not appear to see. She has an oxygen mask on her face, a drip running into her arm. Her monitor chirps a regular rhythm, attached to unseen leads beneath the sheets. There is no expression on her face, no response to the sounds about her, and at a glance her slack-jawed countenance seems unnatural. The doctors, previously frenetic, do not surround her bed any longer.
The focus of this image, though, is not the room or the middle-aged patient in the bed. Next to her sits an elderly lady wrapped in a pale coat, still wearing her hat and scarf from when she arrived at the hospital. She too is very still, facing the woman lying so unresponsive on the gurney, and one of her hands is at the patient’s side hidden under the cover. The elderly lady moves slightly and the sheet shifts showing her hand gently cradling that of her daughter. She does not clutch at it or stroke it, but simply makes and maintains contact. Watching her, you get the feeling that she is aware of very little going on beyond the bounds of the bay. Eyes only for her daughter, the elderly lady sits silently; grieving and broken and dignified, and it is heart-rending. To be called to hospital and told that your child, whom earlier that day was shopping with friends, is not expected to survive the night. That her mind is already shattered, that there is nothing that can be done, and that the rush of the ambulance and the urgent scanning and the pills and the potions were in vain.
The doctor finishes her conversation and puts the phone down, leaves the room. I follow, and that is the last that I see of the silent mother mourning her daughter, sitting in silent isolation and waiting the hours or days that it will take for those snoring breaths to stop.
I’m interested to know what you think of this post. Needless or interesting, and is it an exercise worth repeating for other unphotographable scenes that make up my ‘working life’. They aren’t always sad, either, I should add! Let me know.