Barb Daly Williams

Bridging the Silence…A Massage Therapist’s Point Of View

My hurried pace was halted by a tug of ‘knowing’. A ‘knowing’ that I should peek in room 31 of the Emergency Room. As a tech in the ER, I rarely stopped. I loved a hectic pace, so it was something powerful that drew me to his room that day.

His arm band read…John..92..Male. His frail form covered only in a sheet seemed to scream for warmth. As I covered his body with a warmed blanket I knew by the parched skin and protruding bones that he was visiting us for the last time. An ambulance had given him his last ride from the nursing home. He was here to die. “John,” I said, “Is there anything I can get you? Are they treating you right?” I knew I wouldn’t get an answer, but I sensed that he could hear me and feel my touch.

Forgetting the chaos outside the door, I held his hand, and for no special reason put my other hand on his forehead…and I talked.
I love my job John, but I’m sure glad you called me in here, I need the break. How was the ambulance ride? Did they take the corners too fast?

From the corner of my eye I saw the blinds separate. I imagined the words of my co-workers…I knew them by heart.”Ok Susie Sunshine, he can’t hear you, WHAT are you doing?” I smiled, finding their frustration with me, amusing. The blinds snapped shut, and I talked. As my hands grew warm, his cheeks turned a little less grey, and his breathing softened.

I heard the sound before I saw his lips move. A low, dry, brittle sound……”Waater, thirrrsty,” He had chosen his words carefully, they came with great effort. “Well John, you decided to talk to me, I’ll get you some water.” As I turned to leave the room I felt a faint squeeze on my hand, I turned to see heavy lids open just enough to show me the glimmer of a, one time, feisty man. Only his lips moved, but I caught the “Thank you.”

“Doctor, your patient in room 31 is asking for water, is that ok?” Trying to dismiss me, he replied, “My patient can not ask for water, he’s been in a coma for 4 months.” He’s awake now!” I said with a confident smile, “and he IS thirsty.” Not convinced, but seeing my determination, the doctor checked on John. “Amazing” came the quiet reply.

As I helped John sip his water, the first by mouth in 4 months, we connected. Words were few and not necessary. Simple touch had awakened this dying man in time to give one final lesson, and for this reason I did not question his death a few hours later. I knew the miracle was not his, the lesson was for me…..I learned for certain, that patients in a coma hear us on some level, I learned that patients respond to empathetic touch, and finally, I was reminded that, life’s’ lessons are all around us if we are ‘present’ and open enough to feel the gentle tugging on our heart. Who have you touched today?

Barb Daly Williams

This photo of an unconscious soldier receiving a Purple Heart….then surprising everyone by raising his arm in salute….reminded me of John in room 31 of the ER. Our body/mind might be unconscious, but our soul hears everything!