I don’t remember much of what happened that day. It was busy, an overwhelming state of chaos in an already overwhelming emergency department. I was called to the trauma bay— another medical resuscitation.

She was 80. She was alone.

We worked on her for a brief period of time. She had been found on the ground. No one knew what had happened. Her heart had already stopped.

We got her back briefly. Just enough time for her husband to show up from home. He was in a wheelchair. He was 80 as well. He could barely walk.

He and I spoke outside of the emergency department. I said things such as “she’s very sick”, “we’re only keeping her alive with strong medicines”. He said nothing—glassy eyed through it all.

“Can I see her?”
He eventually whispered.

I wheeled him through the double doors of our trauma room.

He focused, his eyes clearing as he saw her.

And he brought 60 years of unspoken memories out in a single statement.

He said “I love you” from his wheelchair. The worn fingers on one hand curled around a well used cane, the other reaching out and taking her lifeless hand.

His statement hit the room like the line of bass at a rock concert.

Typically concerts and trauma rooms are places of movement. Only our reaction was a stillness that translated into deep silence owned by two old lovers. A silence powerful enough to quench the persistent pull of our chaotic environment. Monitors were turned off. Pressors stopped. The ventilator disconnected.

Not a sound was made until I knelt down beside the old man, tears in my eyes, and whispered “she’s gone”.

My hand registered the ever so slight slump of his shoulders my statement produced.

We left the two hand-in-hand, quiet tears hitting the ground.

 

Resident Author: Eric Devries, MD
Faculty Reviewer: Elizabeth Mitchell, MD