a visit to the hospital

April 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

Last night my husband and I visited my ailing sister-in-law in the hospital. She was admitted on the weekend having suffered a stroke. At present there is a 2 cm blood clot lodged in her brain and they are running tests to figure out what caused the blood clot and what caused her to black out when the stroke hit.

When we walked into the hospital room, before she saw us, I could see my sister-in-law sitting in a chair. She was sitting in her hospital gown with various machines and apparatus attached to her body, monitoring vital signs and administering fluids. She did not know we were approaching and her head was down. Her arms were folded across her chest and she was rocking, as if she was in a rocking chair, but she was in a regular chair. When she looked up and saw us she stopped rocking and her face belied the extreme emotion that lay beneath the surface.

My husband and I sat down to talk. I had never seen my sister-in-law’s face to open and unguarded. Normally she has a kind of hard, happy mask that she wears like make-up. It never, or only very rarely slips. This evening her eyes were tired, the muscles sagged, her entire face weighed down. She did not smile and her mouth drew down at the sides. I had never seen her like this before. It was a little disconcerting, not because I was uncomfortable with the nakedness of feeling expressed in her face, but that I was not used to this amount of honesty in her facial expression.

She talked openly about how her situation ‘sucked’ and how embarrassed she felt to be in this condition. She admitted feeling scared and expressed anger that her physical health should thwart her from doing what she wanted to do. Today was the first day that the doctors had allowed her to get out of bed and she was feeling better for that, but she was scheduled for another two days in the hospital to complete tests and she wanted to go home.

She talked about a music gig she had scheduled for the next night and how she wanted to get home so she could go out to play it the following night.

She mentioned that the headache from the blood clot in her brain was gradually going away, although she didn’t know how much that could be attributed to the pain killers they were giving her at the hospital.

In this one brief visit I saw so much of the quality and characteristics of my family system being played out by my sister-in-law. I felt a great compassion for her, and empathy for her situation. I also felt a great upwelling of pain in my own heart, as I realized the disconnect made apparent by the physical realities of her condition and her obsession to get out to play a music gig the next night.

It was painfully familiar, and, at the same time, like the mystifying curtain of family insanity had been pulled back for me to glimpse behind.


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