April 18

Coma Patients’ Day (Poland)


“It makes me feel better talking to you, even though Mark thinks you can’t hear anything.  What does he know?  The doctors won’t rule out the possibility.

“I can’t help but feel like my voice reaches you.  And that you can feel the touch of my hand in yours, right now, even if you’re not able to squeeze back.

“Don’t feel bad.  I know you would if you could.

“In the meantime, count on me to keep visiting, blathering on and on.  Until you tell me to hush up, of course.

“I was going to talk about your favorite show, since a new episode was supposed to air last night.  It got pre-empted, for some special news program I won’t bore you with.

“Oh, who am I kidding.  If you can hear me, you’re smart enough to notice I haven’t mentioned much about current events.  There’s some pretty scary stuff going on.  International tensions, and what not.  I won’t get too specific because, honestly, you’re better off not knowing.

“Mark says maybe you’re the lucky one right now.  He’s always had a dark sense of humor.  I guess as long as you can laugh, things are still okay.

“You keep trying to get better, okay?  When I come back tomorrow, your eyes might be open and you’d be sitting up in bed.  I heard it could happen just like that — like the snap of a finger.  Wouldn’t that be nice?”

Your visitor didn’t come back the next day.  It’s been at least a week, although passage of time is hard to judge from behind closed eyes, while lying motionless in a hospital room.  The flow of visitors, of multiple check-ins each day from nurses, the regular beep and whirr of machines that monitor your heart and help you breathe — all provided the steady metronome clicks of tedious, unvarying routines.

But the nurses haven’t checked-in lately.  The subtle beeps have shifted into louder warning blasts that suggest fluids have run out, and that, any minute, an emergency generator will choke out its last gasp of power.

Yes, it’s been at least a week since your visitor.  And by your judging, five days since other patients stopped crying out for help, pressing alert buttons to call to staff who, for whatever reason, never arrived at work.

As your visitor suggested, you’re probably better off not knowing what happened.  Still, you can’t help but imagine the possibilities, flip through one mental scenario after another, like tearing off the depressing dates of a desk calendar, ready to discover that all the remaining pages will be blank.