Below, a poignant perspective in this week’s NEJM, entitled “The Loneliness of Visiting.”
“Take my hand,” I urge. Sometimes I imagine a weak squeeze in return, but other times his hand falls limply to the side. The effort of turning in bed is too much. His face becomes red and flushed as he rests back, defeated.
An uncomfortable witness to his situation, I reach reflexively for my phone. But I had to turn it off, so I cannot go through my messages and pictures, which are months old and of no consequence but would make for an easy distraction. My newspaper is unwieldy in the small space. The precautionary gown and gloves makes it even more impractical to hold Brad’s hand. A touch through powdery gloves feels slippery in practice and intent. I look up, but there is not even a muted television screen to stare at mindlessly. The nurse busies herself with the next round of medications, and we make small talk. I tell her Brad and I go back 20 years. “That’s special, Brad!” she enthuses. He looks at her blankly and innocently. My heart sinks. It seems unkind to leave but painful to stay.
Worth the full read.