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Posted by Harrison ReedComment

HReedpicThis article appears in the May issue of JAAPA.

Every morning, David’s room was dark. I walked in, flipped on the lights, and shouted good morning in the loudest voice I could muster. Maybe the sheer volume would force the outside world through the fog that engulfed him. His eyes rested on the ceiling’s fluorescent light fixture and then scanned the room, left to right, not pausing for an instant.

The ventilator hummed a steady rhythm and then fired an extra breath. David’s face wrinkled and, as if realizing his unnatural circumstances for the first time, he reached for the endotracheal tube in his mouth. His left wrist snapped to a halt short of its target, held by the taut confines of his restraints. His right wrist lay motionless.

A stroke had robbed David of the strength in his right arm and leg. It had taken his ability to speak and allowed fluids to trickle down his trachea when he swallowed. That tiny malfunction, combined with years of smoke and the inevitable emphysema that followed, led to total respiratory collapse and an admission to the ICU.

A collision of worlds.

“It’s OK, David,” I squeezed his still hand, a giant paw thick with the calluses of a lifetime of labor.

His eyes settled back on the fluorescent lights and he stopped struggling against his restraints. I told him he was in the hospital, that a machine was helping him breathe. I told him the time and the date and the plan for his care: wait and see. And then I left him.

Read the rest of the article on the JAAPA website.

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