This is a piece I wrote sometime ago. It was published by Transition Magazine.
Coma: the patient is in a state of prolonged deep unconsciousness
Jennifer listens intently to the doctor. One thing stands out in her mind. David is awake.
She thinks, “He’s not in a coma. That’s good news.” She looks at him on the hospital bed and her husband is suddenly diminished; his strength lost. His eyes are open and the doctors say he doesn’t see her. She knows he does, maybe not really clearly or maybe not totally understanding what he sees but he does see her.
Vegetative State: the patient is awake but is not aware.
“It’s me, David. I’ve brought you some flowers.” She thinks she sees awareness in his smile. More than she has seen before. A feeling of great hope floods her being. Jennifer calls the nurse but by the time the nurse arrives, he is blinking and nodding at something in the farthest corner of the room. The nurse is irritated.
“I have patients with real needs,” she says. When she sees the look on Jennifer’s face her own expression softens.
Jennifer hates the discreet pity of the professional caregiver. David was almost lucid.
Persistent Vegetative State: the patient has been awake but unaware for a month.
Jennifer comes every day at the same time. She always says, “It’s me, David.” And then she tells him about her day and about the kids. She is careful to explain how busy they are and why they can’t come to see him as often as she does. David, Jr. is on the hockey all-star team and Kelly is going to a gymnastics tournament. They both miss him, really, really miss him.
She never cries. That is, she never cries when she is visiting him. She refuses to give up and she is sure that David can feel her determination. As long as she believes there is hope. She has strong faith in positive energy.
Permanent Vegetative State: the patient has been awake but unaware for a full year.
Jennifer is very upset with David’s doctors. They want her to let them remove his feeding tube. “But, he’ll starve,” she protests.
“He has no quality of life.”
David Jr. and Kelly stand looking on. David, Jr. shifts uncomfortably and then he says, “The doctor is right, Mom. Dad wouldn’t want to live like this. You’re not being fair to him.”
Even Kelly agrees. “This isn’t Dad.” She cries silently, tears streaking her cheeks.
Jennifer looks at David, Jr. and she wipes her tears away angrily. She does not cry when she is with David. The doctor leaves. David, Jr. and Kelly leave.
She wants to scream. She wants to shout that it isn’t fair. She wants to punish her disloyal children. She wants David to wake up and come home.
David is smiling and he is drooling. His eyes are blinking but he does not see. His hands make spastic grasping motions at the edge of his blankets.
“Oh, David,” she says. “What should I do?”
“Hmmmmph, huhhhh,” says David. His right hand paws at the air.
“It’s beautiful outside today,” she says. “The birds are singing and the sun is melting the snow. Spring is here at last.” She sits with David a long time, longer than usual. She holds his hand and strokes it. When she kisses him good-bye, she looks deep into his faded blue eyes. She looks for David and can not find him.
‘It is a beautiful day,” she thinks. She knows she will have to give the doctors’ permission soon but not today. Sometime soon.