Code Blue

March 11, 2022

I’m sitting in my father’s frigid hospital room when I hear it for the second time today, “Code blue. Code blue.” Just like the previous time, I hear scurrying in the hallway and see nurses moving quickly to assist with the call. I can tell without asking that it isn’t good. I don’t know what “code blue” signifies but I know it’s bad by the look on their faces and the way they respond. 

I know it’s a call for immediate help, an ‘all hands on deck’ type of situation. I can tell it means someone is slipping away and in desperate need of life-saving measures. That ‘knowing’ pulls me back to the trauma of my mother’s final moments. It pulls me back to the end, her end. 

My mind blurs between this moment and the stranger needing help to stay alive and the moment I knew we were losing my mother. It’s like I’m in two places at once, here and also back in time. I can feel the fluttering of my heart in a mixture of panic, anxiety and memories. Before I can catch my breath it happens again, “Code blue. Code blue. Room 188.” It’s the same room as before. This can’t be good. The same room, the same call, minutes apart. I begin to pray. 

I think about this stranger in need of help. I think about this stranger’s family. Are they here? Are they witnessing these calls and these much needed life-saving measures? Are they praying too? I hope someone is wrapping them in just as much comfort as their loved one is being wrapped in medical measures. I hope someone is reminding them to breathe. I know what it’s like to be surrounded by chaos and the fragility of life. I know what it’s like to feel helpless and scared and without control or power to change the situation. I hate that I know those things and I hate that now they will know those things too. 

I continue to pray as I hear my father ask his nurse about the intercom calls. She glances over at me and I can tell that she is afraid to speak the truth. I can tell she doesn’t want to be dishonest but she also doesn’t want to provide an answer that will deflate the small hope we’re sitting here with. I can tell she doesn’t want to worry my father or put fear in his heart. She takes a breath and says, “It’s not good. Those are the 50/50 calls and I’m saying that because I don’t want to say what it really could be. We’ve had two already today. This one makes three.” We all sit in silence feeling the heaviness of what’s happening down the hall. 

I’m holding my phone so I quickly google her answer, hoping it’s more hopeful than it sounds. It’s not. It’s not a 50/50 call. It’s a 26% call and sometimes even less at 11%. Those are not statistics you want in regards to survival and living. My mother came with her own set of statistics, though hers were regarding cancer and remission and curable rates. These are regarding immediate survival. All of them leave me with a lump in my throat. 

The hospital always finds a way to remind you of the delicacy of life. It always reminds you that so much of life and living is out of our control. It always reminds you of the beauty while being surrounded by the storm. It’s a place that holds the joyful beginnings of life and also the harsh endings of life too. Right now, in this moment, all I can feel is the latter. 

I put my phone down. I stop googling statistics. Instead, I look over at my father and think how blessed we are right now that these calls aren’t for him. That we aren’t the ones burdened by the disheartening statistics we’ve just learned. 

I take a deep breath and I pray fiercely that there are no more “Code blues”, no more calls for immediate attention and no need for the swift action of the doctors and nurses here. I continue praying but I’m so tangled between my own story and the stories of each person on the other end of these calls that I’m no longer sure who or what I’m praying for. I leave no wish or hope left unstated. I send them all up to whoever can help and to whoever will listen. 

The intercom codes of today reminded me that…

Life is so fragile, we must be purposeful with our days.

Life is so finite, we must be bold and adventurous with our moments.

Life is so vulnerable and uncertain, we must be courageous and intentional with our love.

Be bold. Be courageous and love big, friends. Someone, somewhere, is dealing with a code blue today. 

xox, Chels

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One response to “Code Blue”

  1. Missy says:

    I felt every word of this. Thank you!

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Chelsea Ohlemiller

A thirty-something wife, mother and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is a sappy romantic, coffee junkie, book collector, and person who wears her heart on her sleeve. She’s sarcastic, full of jokes, full of tears, and enjoys writing most when life gets messy or complicated. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. Through her grief journey, she decided to take her mother’s advice and share her writing with the world. One day she gained the courage to honor her mother's wishes and write. It turned out to be one of the best decisions she's ever made.

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