Call me sheltered, call me innocent. Yesterday was the first time I've walked into an ICU unit. As a visitor. Though I hope I don't have to even walk in to visit someone again, and sure as hell pray I'm not lying on one of the beds.
It was my aunt. Stubborn by nature, she insisted on making her annual pilgrimage to China despite having some respiratory conditions. Even as a Christian, I respect her rock-solid faith in Buddhism.
In the end it worsened to pneumonia, almost completely obstructing her lower throat/windpipe with phlegm and consequently almost shutting off her access to something as simple as a simple breath of air. They had to do tracheoscopy to help her breathe with a ventilator (I'm so so sorry if I got the term wrong. Basically that ball-shrinking procedure where they cut a hole in your throat to shove a tube down and help you breathe. Simple stuff).
I was abit reluctant to go yesterday because I had a ton of schoolwork that I'd happily neglected, and of course my hobbies to take up what remaining time I had. Besides, I thought to myself, I'm not all that close to my aunt.
I'm glad I was forced to go. I didn't exactly fall on my knees and beat my breast wailing in despair, but when I saw my aunt, it seemed like my whole body fell into a ringing silence. Like the millions of cells stopping their tasks midway to stare in mute shock. Just an expression. I wasn't shocked, just had a sinking heart. Again (d'oh I hate it when I can't express myself properly), it's a literal expression of what I felt inside, not shit-she-ain't-gonna-live sinking heart. I know my aunt's a very strong woman. Inherited it straight from my granny.
When she raised a rather weak hand to wave, I felt my remaining breath squeezed out of me, and my lips and eyelids twitching slightly. In English, probably the closest word would be heartbreaking.
I said about 2 seconds worth of silent tongues, while clasping her hand. I just felt uncomfortable holding her hand and like either staring at her or at the machines. It was a bit of a struggle because I knew that physical touch in the Christian realm does have meaning. But I decided to just go by faith and pray from the outside. Hey, if tongues can at the very least cross half of Asia to save a loved one from the tsunami (testimony la not me), I don't see why it can't pass through simple Perspex (WHATEVER THE MATERIAL IS LA). My parents were gesturing for me to go out to the lounge area, meaning out of the whole ward, to wait since I was done greeting my aunt, and it was hard to communicate to them that I wanted to stay outside the room. And they didn't make it any easier by not seeming to understand the meaning of a shaking head. I was abit embarrassed to be showing so much concern for my aunt. Dumb I know but I was, but nevertheless I rooted myself there while they spoke to her inside.
When we were all done, we went back out to the lounge to chat with my cousin about the details of her condition. And the scene outside bordered on surreal. I saw a Malay lady greet a younger woman and weeping in her arms, children running round irritatingly (I told myself if they bumped into me I'd gladly take that excuse to admonish the father), another Malay lady donning her outfit to execute her evening prayers. Can't say it was a thrilling sight. Can't even say it's one I'll remember. But it sure did wobble me a little bit.