(An excerpt from a poem by James Thomson)
And while the black night nothing saw,
And till the cold morn came at last,
The old bed held the room in awe
With tales of its experience vast.
It thrilled the gloom; it told such tales
Of human sorrows and delights
Of fever moans and infant wails,
Of births and deaths and bridal nights.
She was young--25--and female--and pregnant. Statistically, the last person you'd expect to be diagnosed with a glioblastoma. She was six months pregnant when the diagnosis came.
Gamma knife radiation was very carefully undertaken, with lead shields for both the operators and the fetus. Chemo and other standard treatments were out of the question; we had a baby to protect.
She held her daughter and breastfed her a few times before she became unresponsive and started seizing. Her daughter came to see us today, along with her father. She's a beautiful baby; barely two months old with a head of dark, curly hair and the biggest, roundest brown eyes you'd ever want to see.
Before that was the woman with inoperable metastatic cancer. We all expected her to live a week; after all, her family had asked that fluids be provided via an intravenous line, and the oxygen was going full-blast.
And Bridal Nights
This happened a few years ago. She had been planning their wedding when she had a horrible bleed, a class IV, just a few weeks before the day.
We kept her for two months. She had a stomach tube and a tracheostomy tube and other tubes running here and there to maintain some semblance of dignity.
Eventually she got transferred to the neuro rehab unit. Nobody could understand why she couldn't speak or respond until one bright nurse realized that her bleed had destroyed her hearing.
So she got hearing aids. And one of our nurses who's handy with a sewing machine altered her wedding gown to fit her thinner frame. And another nurse who's good with flowers brought armloads she'd grown herself. And the chaplain volunteered her services.
So, six months after her original wedding date, our patient walked down an aisle in the tiny chapel in the basement, wearing a gown tailored to disguise her feeding tube. Sure, she walked with a walker, but her groom had tears in his eyes all the same. We were all there. The patient and her family were kind enough to invite us, and to hold the ceremony during our working hours.
"I know what is and what has been;
Not anything to me comes strange,
Who in so many years have seen
And lived through every kind of change.
I know when men are good or bad,
When well or ill," he slowly said;
"When sad or glad, when sane or mad,
And when they sleep alive or dead."