Olga S. Hardman

We were fidgety as we waited to see patients. The visitorsí room was a pleasant one -- bright and cheerful. There was a large television set at one end and small clusters of chairs were interspersed throughout. I had never been on a psychiatric ward before.

The tiny woman in the wheelchair seemed almost lost in the little hills of gray and white blanket that surrounded her. Her dark lifeless hair hung in strings about her colorless, frozen face. She was motionless. Even her breathing was imperceptible.

The smiling young nurse who pushed her wheelchair seemed almost like an animated cartoon character in contrast. Except that, her movements were sure and smooth. Her streaked, blond hair bounced as she stooped to set the brake on the chair. The bright patches of color on her cheeks came all together in small circles, as she smiled brightly at the young man.

He had been the most fidgety of all. He must have been 12, maybe 14, with long legs and pants that were too short. As the nurse moved away he whispered, "Hi, Mom." Not a motion nor a sound came from the wheel chair. The bird-like creature who was nestled softly in the blanket stared vacantly. The young man shuffled his feet noiselessly and drew circles on his knees with his restless fingers.

As the cool breeze came through the small windows near the ceiling, the short yellow curtains rustled gently. He placed his hand gently on her shoulder as he said, "What did they give you for breakfast?" Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even an eye-lid flicker nor a muscle twitch.

Patients and visitors came and went. Some laughed, but most did not. The young man gently patted his motherís arm. There was no smile on his lips -- no sparkle in his eye -- but he continued his patient, rhythmic, patting. "Dad and I miss you, Mom." Nothing.

When the orderly came to wheel the chair away, the boy got up. He seemed smaller -- shrunken. His young shoulders were stooped as he slowly walked down the hall and out the door.

Even the room seemed different -- the yellow curtains not as bright as before. No breeze now.

My patient still had not come. As I continued my wait, my thoughts wandered. "What pain is so severe that one completely removes her psyche and just leaves her body behind to live on?"

© 1995 Olga S. Hardman