The Waiting Room


It was late at night when I arrived.  All was quiet as I entered the room except for the soft sound of the voice of a lady leaning against the wall, talking on the telephone.  The tone of her voice was somber. 


Some of the chairs in the room were empty.  It certainly wasn't the time of night that you would expect a lot of people to be around the place.  There were several benches and couches being occupied by people who were asleep.  Some of them had pillows and were covered with white cotton blankets. 


On one side of the room there was a whole group of people sleeping.  Their closeness and the fact that there were a couple of children caused me to assume that they were probably a family.


Across from them I saw an attractive woman with long dark hair.  She sat staring at nothing in particular.   Her eyes were red and puffy as if she had been crying.


Over by the window sat an older woman.  She seemed to be accustomed to her surroundings and I thought that she had probably been here before.


When I first came into the room, it never entered my mind that I would actually know any of these people.  I didn't think I'd be here that long, but I was wrong.  Little did I know that I would be spending over a week in and around this very room, and it wasn't long before I became friends with many of them because we all spent long hours together.  We had a common bond that caused us, complete strangers, to suddenly become friends.  This bond or connection with each other was due to the fact that we were all in the Intensive Care Waiting Room of a hospital.  As time went by, some of us shared what happened and why we were here.  We talked, listened, encouraged, and even cried together.   


It wasn't long before I realized my own situation wasn't as bad as many others who were here.  My own problems weighed less and less in light of some who had such heavy burdens to bear as they told me their stories:


Annette was the lady who was on the phone and she had been in the waiting room for four weeks.  Her father was in a motorcycle accident and still had a long road of recovery ahead of him.


Kathy, the attractive young woman with long, dark hair was there because her husband had essentially drowned and been revived.   He was on a respirator and had pneumonia now.  They weren't sure if he would survive and Kathy was concerned about what to tell her three small children.  If he did live, there were many questions as to how much permanent damage there might be to his brain.  Kathy found a Gideon Bible and we read it together.


There was Margaret who had rented a room in town because her son had been burned in a car explosion and he had been there for seven weeks.  She came every day to see him and spent as much time as she was permitted in the ICU with him.


I met Sarah who could only come on weekends because she had to work to support her family since her husband had been in the hospital for seven months now.


There was a family who had a newborn baby.  He was only a few days old when suddenly he began to turn blue and was rushed by helicopter to this hospital as the family prayed they would get him here in time.  After examination, the doctors discovered that he had a problem with his heart and they had to do surgery. The family was waiting just for the chance to touch and hold their tiny son once more, hoping that he would be all right.


As I had suspected, the older lady had been here before.  She told me her husband had received a heart transplant years ago and was having a problem now that had the doctors in a dilemma.  She was familiar with the ICU but that didnít make it any easier.  She told me the story of the transplant and how her husband lived all these years because someone had donated their heart.  She had corresponded with the donor's family and been able to thank them.  They, in turn, expressed their need to know that their loved one who died in a car accident had given the gift of life to someone else.


Mary came in one night after her husband had a wreck but they found that there were worse concerns than a few broken bones.  While x-rays and scans were done to find out how badly he was injured, the tests revealed a whole new set of problems that were unknown before this time.  Several areas showed the probability of an advanced cancer and life suddenly turned upside down for them.


The family that was on the far side of the waiting room was very distraught over their teenaged son, Steve, who was badly hurt in a four-wheeler accident.   His cousin had been killed in the same accident and now Steve was barely hanging on by a thread, yet his family waited for any little sign of consciousness from him.  Not only did they have the pain and distress of the situation with Steve but they also had a funeral to arrange for his cousin that died.  You could tell they were a close-knit family as they waited together.  I found out later that the teen-aged boy with them was Steve's best friend and he had refused to leave the hospital until Steve awakened.


I first met Steve's mother when I found her with her face buried in her hands leaning against the wall outside the ICU.  She was crying so hard that she was shaking all over.  I found myself leaning against that wall with her and I just instinctively put my arms around her and joined her as she cried out to God in prayer for her son. 


Later, I listened as this family talked about where Steve went to church and when he was baptized and I thought how comforting to know that no matter what happened, Steve was all right because he had trusted in His Lord and Savior. 


Day after day the family continued to talk to Steve and watch him for any sign of recognition at all.  One morning there was great excitement in the waiting room because Steve had moved his finger across his mother's hand.  What normally might mean nothing at all, in this case, became cause for great joy.


Another woman I met was Sue.  Her husband died just two weeks earlier after a long and difficult illness and now her son suddenly had an accident that could possibly cause him to lose the vision in one eye.  


Like me, some of my waiting room friends received good news that their loved one was well enough to go home.  My heart ached for others, like John, who sat beside me one night, and told me that his father wasn't going to make it.


People in the waiting room were kind and tried to help each other any way that they could.  I watched a young girl give up her place to sleep to a woman that had a leg that was injured, and one night Steve's Dad brought us all pillows. 


Each day we would stop in the hall when we saw one another and ask, "How is it going today?"   We all waited expectantly for any glimmer of good news at all to share together.


Life is precarious and extremely uncertain.  We never know what tomorrow might bring.  Yet, we often argue over meaningless things and take those we love for granted.  We are but one heartbeat or one breath away from eternity but we seem not to notice that very much until we enter such a place as the waiting room.



Pamela R. Blaine

© July 2003