Jessica and her mother Louise were southern ladies. Jessica, at 24, was the patient. She had suddenly developed severe liver failure and had come to the MICU to be evaluated for a liver transplant. As Jessica lay in bed moaning, her mind clouded from high ammonia levels, her mother struggled to get her mind around it all. To everyone’s relief, Jessica began to get better spontaneously. Over the course of the day her consciousness became clearer. She began to argue with her mother. “There is a toilet in the room, it is right there.” “Honey, there is no toilet in this room.” The toilet was under the sink.
The phone rang in the room. Louise answered. She became upset as she listened. The call ended quickly. “John’s dead. They found him in the house. Oh and I fussed at him last night!” John was her boyfriend. Louise yelled at Jessica as they both began to cry, “Don’t you think money is going to make you happy! Don’t you ever think money is going to make you happy!” John had been wealthy, but troubled and unhappy. He had struggled with alcohol. Louise got on the phone and called her ex-husband (I think it must have been). She told him he needed to come there, told him about John and then began to ramble. She was losing it. She handed the phone to Jessica who used what strength she had to sit up in bed and take the phone. “Momma’s all tore up.” She told whoever was on the other end of the line.
John’s body came to the hospital morgue to be autopsied since his death was unexplained. John’s doctor called the hospital to talk with Jessica’s doctors. He was concerned about foul play. Perhaps they had both been poisoned somehow. The ICU doctors dismissed it. Louise started to think about it, but Jessica had not seen John in weeks. It did not seem possible that the two illnesses could be connected.
Louise wanted to see John’s body and she asked me to help her. I made inquiries but met with resistance. What was the point? Why did she want to do this? I made phone calls and in the end arranged for the hospital Chaplin to take her to the morgue where she was met by the doctor who performed the autopsies. He presented her with a Polaroid picture of John’s body. She came back satisfied. She thanked me for understanding her need.
By the next day Jessica was well on her way to a full recovery.