Thursday, April 5, 2012

E is for elevators

Photo by David Williams


E is for elevators 

It never crossed my mind the first time the doors closed.

I jumped on the elevator, because it would get me to Jimmy. The doctors called the ICU waiting area to say there had been a problem and for me to be ready to get to the Neurological ICU floor. They would call back to let us know.

“That’s weird,” I said to my brother. “Everything was OK when we left.”

My mind didn’t buzz or whirl or anything else, because I had no data to evaluate. The call was meaningless. Then, the ICU waiting room clerk waved and caught my eye. I walked to his desk. In a quiet voice, he said, “You can go upstairs now.” His softness alarmed me.

My brother, Jimmy’s family and I walked into the elevator. Its silver doors shut reflecting our image like a mirror. I had not showered as I'd already spent one night in the hospital waiting room. It struck me that I would not go home again tonight.

The doctor mentioned stroke, infarct and other medical terms. We were shuttled from Jimmy’s bedside, to a waiting room down the hall and then to Jimmy again when he quit breathing.

Later they returned us to the elevator and down to another waiting room. We waited, stared and paced in between brief updates on vital signs, CT scan results and the doctor's departure for the night. 

During the first few weeks, the elevator bothered me with each beep and bump of its doors. I dreaded each call to return to the elevator and to the NICU. As time passed, I knew that another trip might provide me with information I did not want.

I hated to see those silver doors close and show me what I looked like in the corner of a box — trapped with people for one or two floors, who were all destined to get good or bad news about loved ones. 

Over the years, the elevator at nursing homes and other hospitals served me no better. They were quiet before I walked into the unknown of Jimmy's life and his room — was he alive, was his oxygen in place, was he in a comfortable position, was he in a good mood, was he disgruntled waiting for me to arrive or was he dead. 

If I had to label how I feel in an elevator today, it would be PTSD or Post-traumatic stress disorder. I don't use the term lightly. The definition here says: 
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It can occur after you've seen or experienced a traumatic event that involved the threat of injury or death.
While I see a much different reflection in an elevator's doors today, it remains the one place that reminds me of being a caregiver to my late husband with all its ups and downs and the constant threat of death.

26 comments:

  1. Wow, that's something so ordinary and yet now it has a huge meaning to you. What a great post, Stacy. The limbo of an elevator mirrors exactly your feelings.

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  2. Stacy, that was so well written. I understand what you mean about elevators. I've been in many of them in my lifetime, but the ones that stand out are the ones in hospitals and the uncertainty of what awaits you when those doors open to the floor where your loved one lies helpless.

    Hoping that you'll have only happy experience on elevators from now on. Blessings!

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  3. I understand this story. I feel the same way every time I walk into a hospital (Mom). Thanks for sharing this with us.

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    1. Yes. Karen and @Glenda, it appears the hospital elevators have a universal meaning.

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  4. Thank you for sharing this, and sorry you feel that way about elevators :)

    Universal Gibberish

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  5. Oh my. I can feel your pain and fear through your writing. What a time of excruciating uncertainty.

    *hug*

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    1. Beth, uncertainty is a perfect word. Thanks for the hug.

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  6. Stacy, every time I come here, I learn something new about you and the human spirit. My heart aches for the young woman still inside of you and next time I'm in an elevator, looking back at my reflection, I'll be thinking of you and the reflections of your past. Thank you for the beautifully written 'E' post.

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  8. E is for elevators! Wonderful post!

    I too have my own elevator anxiety. I am old enough to remember the OLD elevators before the automatic door close sensors... and so my own anxiety is getting on and off. Nothing like yours, of course....

    thank you for sharing.

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    1. Louise, Our "Pioneer Museum" has one of those. The museum is in a renovated courthouse. The iron work was beautiful.

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  9. An elevator with it's closed-in-ness and ups and downs seems the perfect metaphor for the pain you were going through. Wonderful post, thought I'm sorry for the pain behind it!

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    1. Susanna, I appreciate you stopping by.

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  10. Stacy - I'm sorry for the pain you felt every time you had to get onto an elevator. I can only imagine what you were going through. You are a strong woman and it comes through in everything you share about that time in your life.

    Susanne
    PUTTING WORDS DOWN ON PAPER

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    1. Susanne, Thanks. It's been helpful to write about it and put words to the emotions.

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  11. Stacy, You are so very talented. I absolutely appreciate how you connected a tangible thing (the elevator) to a feeling of dread and stress. You paint such memorable pictures. I am more than impressed.

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  12. Oh Stacy! I heart you. Your writing has absolutely put me there where you were. It is potent and powerful. I only wish I could give you a real hug. Cyber hugs don't seem enough today somehow.

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  13. I remembered about your interview and went to it. I am sorry, I meant to go to it last week. But life got in the way and I forgot. *sigh* *bends over so Stacy can kick her in the butt*

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  14. This is my first time to your blog, and I'm happy to "meet" you. I'm so sorry for your pain, but wow. This is powerful. Well written; perfectly expressed. It put me there. I get this. I feel it.

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  16. Your writing is so vivid that I felt like I was there with you. You are giving me a glimpse of what my family experienced. A different perspective for me. Your writing is powerful!

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  17. Stacy, I could hear those elevator doors. What really struck me is how you studied your reflection once inside... that's something everybody does. This is why I love the art of memoir writing. I bet the next time I get in a hospital elevator I'll remember you.

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