The sun sets and the night rolls in and for most of the world around us, it’s just another work day ending with dinner on the table and catch-up chores or a little TV before bedtime.

Not so on a critical care cancer floor. 

 Bells, whistles, toots, beeps, footsteps and worry…a lot of night music as the hour hand moves so slowly.   There is no down time on this floor.  Critical care doctors, nurses, technicians are no less intense on the other side of the clock.  In fact, with illness and cancer is no different, the body seems to be more vulnerable in the wee hours of the  night. 

Caregivers huddle in corners of their loved ones’ rooms.  They curl-up on a chair meant for sitting, but this night, they bend and shape their body until it mimics a resting pose and they try to get some sleep. Critical care floors are not meant for sleep: not for the patient or the caregiver. 

The experts visit constantly.  One taking vials of blood, another taking vitals, another recalibrating an IV pump or changing out an empty bag of medicine.  It’s a constant visitation and it needs to be, for the welfare of the patient.  My recollections of these kinds of nights are clear and I experienced another last night and I can tell you nothing has changed in the last few years.

It’s the sounds that stay with me.  Tearing open sealed instruments, the sounds of Velcro opening on a padded leg boot or the gentle unfolding of a sterile gown.

I doubt these sounds will ever change.  It is the symphony of cancer and care.  A lot of night music fills the air.

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