As seen on Heartwarmers

Nobody wanted to be there. Not even one person. However, they were all there, and in a strange way, glad they were.

It was the waiting room of the Neuro Trauma Intensive Care Unit (NTICU) at Memorial Hermann Hospital, one of only two "Level One Trauma Hospitals" in Houston, Texas. (Memorial Hermann Hospital is the site of this summer's ABC medical drama entitled Houston Medical.) When a person is critically injured-when one's life is hanging in the balance due to some traumatic event-the family should always attempt to see to it that its injured loved one goes to a Level One Trauma Unit, if it's possible.

The families in the waiting room of the NTICU almost always appear to be petrified because they know, at any moment, a physician might enter the unit and tell them, "I am very sorry. We tried everything possible, however..."

The first few days, as a rule, the families keep to themselves. However, as time passes by, the families usually get to know each other-they share the joy when there is good news for a family, and they also share their sorrow when there is poor news for a family.

The Unit's many families become a "support group" for each other. I have seen it often. As one of the social workers for the hospital, I understand the dynamics of hope and the importance of support. I have seen families volunteer to take a family from out-of-town to their homes so that they could rest and shower. I have also seen strangers pray for the recovery of someone whom they did not even know 24 hours earlier.

There are many "miraculous" stories about the families in the NTICU. Unfortunately, there are many times when there is not "a happy ending."

On one occasion, a young man was severely hurt and suffered a traumatic brain Injury and was rushed to our hospital. For days, his prognosis was in doubt. His mother was always in the waiting room and I am sure she experienced a roller coaster of emotions, and of course, she breathed a huge sigh of relief when the doctors gave her reason to hope.

Then she saw another mother in the waiting room whose daughter had not been given that hopeful prognosis. The daughter, she was told by the doctors, would probably soon pass away as a result of the severe injuries that she had sustained in a car accident.

The two mothers were soon linked together-strangers joined forever by a universal magnet-motherly pain. They became very close, supporting each other in both good and bad times.

Ironically, the predictions for the two mothers were eventually reversed. The young man who was supposed to survive unfortunately passed away, while the girl who was supposed to die is now making progress in Florida, in her home.

Families in the waiting room can eventually develop very close relationships and begin to care for each other.

For example, there were two patients-one elderly gentleman and the other a teenager-who had been in the Unit for quite some time. Their families got to know each other, and became close.

The parents of the teenager were always at the hospital, night and day. But, one night, the teenager's mother returned to her home while his father remained in the waiting room. The next morning she returned to the hospital and said to the wife of the elderly patient, who regularly remained at the hospital night and day, "I was worried about you all night."

The elderly woman responded, "I figured you were worried because last night I WAS SLEEPING WITH YOUR HUSBAND IN THE WAITING ROOM AND I WOULDN'T HAVE MISSED IT FOR THE WORLD!"

Everyone burst out in deep laughter. Humor can be a great coping mechanism.

Yes, life can be very difficult. However, it can also be tempered if one has a support system to help and assist during those strenuous and exacting moments.

Support is very important-especially in the waiting room.

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