Time doesn’t seem to exist in this horrible room. Yet, I am aware that time is moving somewhere far away. I don’t know what it is like outside of this room. In fact, I do not know if anything lies beyond this room. But that’s not entirely true, I do know that there is a different reality beyond this white prison—the sounds I hear are proof of that—I just don’t know how to get there.
I am bound to this room in a way I can’t explain. I don’t know if I will ever escape. And I don’t know if I should. What if life beyond this white room is worse than this place. What if that reality is harsh and I am stuck there? I do not like this white room, but something about it is safe. At least, it was until my precious tally marks were wiped away.
I turn my eyes to the wall that used to hold my marks—since my eyes seem to be the only thing I can move—and wonder how long I have been here. I know that the last time the marks were there, I was here for 300 days. But that could have been months ago, or even years. I have no idea. The seconds, minutes, hours, and days even, all feel the same. There is no window to indicate whether it is day or night. I don’t even know if day and night even exist in this room.
The only thing I can see is white. I hate white now. The color—if one could call it a color—was sterile and sickening to stare at. Suddenly, I want to jump out of the bed and run, but I can’t. My legs can’t move, nor can the rest of my body, save my eyes. And even if I could move, I would have nowhere to go.
The sight of the room was so horrible now that all I could do is close my eyes and wonder if I will ever be free of this white room.
“I want to see my child!” Doctor Todd tried to stop the patient’s parents from entering the room, but they pushed against him.
“I don’t think she is ready for this. I still don’t have any changes and don’t know yet if she is ready to deal with people. It may only stress her to have others in the room.” He motioned to the nurse to come forward and she grabbed the mother’s arm and began walking her back to the room they had given the parents.
The patient’s mother pulled away. “You can’t keep me from my daughter. It’s not right. She needs me with her.”
Todd adjusted his glasses and closed the patient’s door so that she would not be upset by the noise of their voices. “Look, I don’t want to keep you from your daughter. Nor do I want her to be without the comfort of family, but at the moment she is unconscious and being unnecessarily disturbed will not help her. What she needs is peace and a good deal of rest.” Even though she had been resting for almost a year. To be honest—though he would never admit it to the parents—he was worried. He had never dealt with a situation like this and wasn’t sure if his patient would ever return to consciousness. And if she did, he wasn’t sure she would be the same. He was only trying to protect the parents from having to see their daughter so lost to the world and so utterly still.
The mother started to cry and the father wrapped her in a hug before glaring at Todd. “We will wait for now, but we will be visiting our daughter soon.”
Todd nodded. He couldn’t keep them from visiting their daughter forever, nor did he want to. They were probably right about the patient needing the nurturing love of parents, but he did not know what was truly best for his patient. Nothing he had tried had worked and he didn’t know if this would help either. So, for now, he would keep all visitors out, and the quiet in, and hope that his patient would improve.
I hear something. But it is difference from the noise I heard before. I think it still must be talking, coming from a mile away. But the conversation seems heated. Emotion carries in the words. I haven’t heard nor seen emotion in a while. There is no emotion in this white room.
I yearn to go where the noise is, but I can’t. I am stuck. I feel like every second I am in this room, I grow a little bit closer to death. But I don’t want to die in this room.
I need to escape. A part of me, the part that was still attached to the reality just beyond this white room, knew this. But the part of me that had been trapped in this room for over 300 days, was scared. Scared that I would hate the other reality, and more scared that I would never escape this one.
But somehow, I knew that if I did not try to escape, I would slowly fade away in this sterile room until there was nothing left of me.
Doctor Todd hunched over his cold cup of coffee and rubbed a hand through his already harried hair. Since the night nurse was watching his patient—and he had no other patients—he was free for the night to rest, but he could not. Thoughts of his patient kept him awake.
Because of the patient’s rare and unheard-of condition and the fact that she had been in a coma for almost a year had relieved him from his work with other patients, but his workload was not any less wearisome. In fact, it was worse. He could feel himself aging more as he watched his patient sleep on with barely any signs of life.
The whole situation made him want to quit being a doctor and retire, even though he was only 37. He sighed and pulled over his glasses.
His nurse—the one who stayed with the patient through the sat down in the seat on the opposite side of his desk and gestured to his cup. “Coffee won’t sustain you. You need sleep.”
He turned to her. “You do too.”
“Yes, I do, and I can’t sleep if I know you are up here drinking stale coffee and worrying.”
Todd had worked with Nurse Madison for many years and felt comfortable expressing his concerns, no fears, with her. “I don’t know what to do. I have tried everything I can. Everything. It has been almost a year. Part of me worries that she will fade away in the night, and the guilt of not being there and not being able to save her will hold me bound until I die. And the other part of me worries that she will forever be in this coma and we will be taking care of an empty shell of a person.” He looked at her, allowing all his stress and worry to be evident in his posture and voice. He never allowed his patients or their families to see his worry or stress, but in the privacy of his office, he didn’t bother to hide it.
Madison didn’t offer him empty platitudes or anything of the sort, and simply said, “I know that this is hard, but you can’t work yourself into the grave, that will not help our patient. You, and the rest of us on duty, are doing all we can. Ultimately, we will not be able to decide if the patient wakes up or not, but we can hope for the best.” She picked up his coffee cup. “But for now, you need to rest. We will need to be awake and ready in case our patient awakes tomorrow.”
He nodded and stood. “I hope that she does.” He would do everything he could to make sure his patient awoke even if it meant sacrificing sleep, and whatever else it took.