We recently had a young girl in our ICU. She had been involved in a terrible motor vehicle collision and she was mangled beyond belief. Her skull was partially removed to let the brain swell, giving her head a grotesque misshapen look. Her head was shaved and her face was lacerated from windshield glass. Her body was wasted from weeks and weeks in our ICU; her eyes were shut and had not opened since her arrival at the hospital. She was clenched up in a bizarre pseudo-decorticate posture, arms and legs stiff and clenched in between our rumpled ICU blankets, head slumped in a too-big Aspen collar full of neurological drool. Looking at her was unpleasant at best and horrifying at worst. She was destroyed.
Her family brought in a photo of her and pinned it to the wall over her bed. It was a headshot, presumably a senior portrait for her high school yearbook. In the photo she was beautiful: long hair, a nice smile, eyes bright and full of life.
One day I found one of our ICU nurses staring at the picture crying. Seeing an ICU nurse cry is like seeing Rambo picking flowers. I stopped and asked her what was wrong.
She took a deep breath and sighed.
“I hate it when they bring in pictures,” she told me, ” because it makes them seem more human.”