Maybe it’s because she was one of us – a healthcare worker. I know this could happen to me or any of my loving colleagues. I am aware of this risk every time I get into my car to come to work, every time I put on my personal protective equipment (PPE) – I wonder, “Will this mask protect me this time?”
Or maybe it’s because she is a mother, whose family cannot be there for her, to sit by her; to cheer her on with soft words of encouragement and love, to hold her hand, to cry over. Is this what would happen if my mother became ill right now? Who would hold her hand?
I call one of her children. We speak of futility, of things just not getting better. We discuss keeping her comfortable. They want me to speak to the other siblings and father.
We get on to Zoom. How did we have these conversations before? I cannot even remember. How normalised it has become, to speak on this damn thing. Us in our cupboard office, all of them in their separate homes. Children’s laughter in the background. Here we are.
I tell them again: she isn’t getting better, she will never manage off a ventilator, we are now torturing her.
They have many, many questions, and I try my very best. They have not seen the emergencies, the number of times she has tried to die, the amount of oxygen her lungs are craving. I try to explain that her lungs just do not work, they are never going to work. They are stiff cubes. She isn’t going to survive.
“Why now? Why not try for longer?” they ask.
Because time will not make any difference, and now we must maintain her dignity and comfort. Because now that we know this is not helping, and we are hurting her.
They want to see her. I put on my PPE – I look like an alien. At least they just saw my face. They know that it wasn’t just an alien taking care of her. It was me.
We go to see their precious mother – them on Zoom, their mother intubated in a medical coma, connected to a ventilator. I prepare them for what they will see – lots of lines and tubes everywhere. I tell them she may look different to what they remember. I flip the camera around and so it begins.
There are beautiful prayers, songs, and laughter and tears over memories.
They ask me: “Will she hear?”
I really hope so.
I go off shift. Thankfully, I will be not in the next day to be with her when she dies. I don’t think I could be a part of the last bit of her journey, I do not feel strong enough this time. Another loving colleague sits with her. They tell me it was peaceful and quick.
I later see a picture of her from a year ago. I would not have recognised her.
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