ICU is the Intensive Care Unit of a hospital. I had gone to see my Uncle who was unwell and by God's grace has recovered now. It is not easy to see your loved one on the hospital bed, with tubes and monitors. Your eyes brim with tears even when the patient is recovering..tears of joy, relief and gratitude. Sometimes it is tears of fear, the 'what if' kind of fear. The mind plays dirty tricks with your wellbeing as you wait in the hospital. It makes you think of the worst possible scenarios.
In ICU, there is a scenario which is most dreadful. It is when the Doctor says that there is nothing more we can do. The family members who have to hear this, are shattered. Then it can be a matter of a few hours or a few days. When the family visit the patient inside the ICU, they all smile. They talk of recovery. They never tell the patient that the end is near or the doctor is saying it is all over. In fact, they don't even tell the patient that the situation is critical. I am not going into the morality of all this. I know all of us have to die one day and everyone knows that. But knowing that end is near, is not going to help. I saw the Doctors advising relatives to shift their patient to the general ward of the hospital from the ICU as nothing more could be done, in terms of treatment. To a lady and her daughter, the doctor said to take the patient home and let him rest. He told a teenager to read in Google and watch on Youtube, what simple movements one can do with the patient. Once the Doctor was advising a single mother who was recently widowed to save her money and take the patient home, as there was no hope. The ambulance coming to the ICU was not a ray of hope but a sign of some patient had died. Every day I saw the ambulance once. We saw the crowd of relatives who used to wait outside ICU, reducing every day. When the patient falls sick, lot of visitors come. If the illness stretches long, then a single family member does the duty of waiting at the hospital. All relatives sat in the lawns outside and discussed how their patient was doing and what the doctor was telling them. No one spoke about how the patient was when he or she was happy and healthy. Some people were already resigned as they thought the age factor of the patient which did not help in recovery. People left all their work, business, children and home to just wait with the patient. The relative became a patient with a bed number. No one took the patient s name. But all the attendants talked to each other with a lot of love. Everyone wanted to know how your family member was. They also needed to know where you were from and what did the doctor say. The patient's medical journey is all that they talked about. My Dad used to be waiting everyday for 12 hours outside the ICU. Lot of people talked to him how the night was for their patient. They just needed a father figure to talk to who was also like a friend. I saw my father listening to so many people and being so hopeful for their patients. A couple, taking an evening stroll with their arms linked and laughing one evening, had lost their loved one the next morning. The tears and the howling starts as soon as the bad news is delivered. People just break down. Sometimes, they are sobbing for hours, the quiet sobs.
The ICU door was closed and manned by a watchman. There was a small lobby and then one turned left towards ICU and right towards CCU ( Critical care unit). ICU timings were strict . Only an hour in the morning and evening. Rest of the time, the attendant or the family awaited a call to see the patient, message from the doctor or report from pathology Lab, a call to get some medicine or injection and sign some forms. Once as I came out of the ICU to this lobby, a Saree clad lady was crying and waiting to go in. She told me that she can't bear to see her Mother who is ailing. We just hugged each other in the dark lobby. Time stood still as we sobbed together. I told her to smile and go in, as I saw watchman approach us. Next day, I never saw her waiting outside.
An old man wearing Kurta Pajama with hennaed beard sat there every day. He has worked for Tata Steel and his father too. Tata gives free medical facility lifelong to the employees and their family. I met his daughter who was a medical consultant with the Jharkhand government. The son worked in Saudi. He had studied in IIT-Powai. His children went to Aligarh Muslim University. We talked about Dubai and Bahrain. He said Saudi has eased up on their laws. He pointed to his wife and said they just have to wear a Burqa now. He was leaving his father to go to Aligarh to see his kids and then back to Riyadh. The old father continued waiting for his wife to get well and she did. Lot of patients got well and the family left happily. It is just that the pall of gloom was more visible. It was a task for all the people outside to keep their spirits up and pray for the best.
There was a pair of old black leather sandals neatly wrapped in a newspaper under the bench. Someone whose patient must have died, must have forgotten them. They were lying there for days, as a reminder, that life can go either ways. The lady who removed the dry leaves and weeds from the lawns and the bushes, always left the sandals in the same place after cleaning. The flowers bloomed, in the spring, the sun showed its various moods, the clouds played Holi and the sandstorms happened. We all sat through it. The nature was very calm compared to the turmoil going inside each one of us.