Critical Care

In the Critical Care Unit,
Some are begging to live
Others are pleading to die
Most are just barely alive,
Dangling by a thread
Above their death bed

Under a tangle
of tubes, wires and drains
Armed with sharp needles,
We plunge deep into their veins
We listen to beeps and blips
Above the dry silence of their lips

We open their eyes
And shine lights inside
Inquiring if anyone is at home in this hide
Nobody comes to the door

This man isn’t yet 54
He’s a father of five
We’ve kept his body alive
But his brain is dead

His eyes no longer see
His lips no longer speak
His lungs will not breathe when we disconnect him from the machine
We’re told that his children arrived on the scene
with narcan in hand,
ten minutes too late

Holding the weight of this family’s tragedy in my heart
I blink back tears
I ask this man’s teenage daughter
If she has any questions
She does not

I have a question-
Why do we continue to lose our loved ones to addiction?
That’s a question with a big answer that includes all of us
Because it involves economics, politics, justice, lack of justice, pharmaceutical misrepresentation, self-medication, lies, truth, health care, being medically underserved, over- served and mis-served, greed, love, neurobiology, prevention, education, human needs, who we hung out with in high school, our shitty childhoods, and how often we were read to before the age of three, to name a few factors.

I have questions, and I have answers;
ideas to prevent future fatal overdoses, like using the Life Alert technology that has been around for decades which immediately alerts an emergency medical response team when it senses that a client has fallen, or the technology in my grandmother’s nursing home which senses lack of motion in a room, or the technology on your wrist that senses heart rate:

let’s give out fitbits like candy on Halloween, like we should be giving out narcan, and suboxone, like after-dinner mints, and let this smart technology show us how brilliant it can be: have the fitbit send out an alert when it senses things have gone astray, applying location sharing technology so that the person carrying narcan can arrive in time to prevent another loved one from dying. Let’s all carry narcan and enlist in a voluntary corps to be alerted to the overdose nearest to us, like uber-meets-amber alert.

Don’t tell me that it would be too expensive: it is already too expensive. What is a human life worth? I can’t put a price on it.

What does one day in the critical care unit cost?
$11,000.
What is one day on life support?
$4G.
The opioid crisis has cost more than a trillion dollars since 2001 and is estimated to cost another 500 million over the next 3 years- so put it on the fucking tab.
Maybe this technology is already in use,
I don’t know because I don’t keep up with the news
I’m too busy fighting on the front line between life and death
But I digress…this man’s life could have been saved, now it is too late. How long must this go on?
I have questions, I have ideas, and I have reflections

Here are some of my reflections, from Memorial Day, 2019:
May I have gratitude for all that my eyes see
May I choose wisely the words that my lips speak
May I dance to the rhythm of my heart beat
May I enjoy the gift of the present
My life is not always easy or fun,
But even on the rough days,
when I don’t want to get out of bed,
May I appreciate
That I am able to ambulate
May I savor each breath that I breathe without a tube shoved down my throat

And the next time I feel critical about my life
May I remember those who are struggling to survive
in the unit
With them in mind
May I strive to thrive
May I live my best life
This is critical

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