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October 2013, vol 8, no 3

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Ignatius Fay

Ten Minutes

The patient in the other bed is a man in his late eighties, death imminent. He has been in a coma for over a week and I have seen no movement in the four days since I was transferred from Intensive Care. His family—wife, daughter and son—take shifts, one of them with him at all times. Until this morning.

His daughter spends the night. Scheduled to work at 8 a.m., she has to leave at 7:30, but her mother has taxi trouble and arrives late. The old fellow is alone for ten minutes.

Soon after his daughter leaves, he becomes agitated, his head feebly tossing from side to side, his hand making weak groping motions. Eyes closed, making no sound, he seems to be reaching for something or someone.

I press the button to call a nurse, get out of bed and, dragging my IV pole, go over to him. Sitting on the edge of his bed, I take his hand and immediately he calms. By the time the nurse arrives, he is dead.

first cold day—
her childhood sketch of dad
among his things