She lay there. Still. Mechanical breath raising and lowering her chest with a slight pause – a stutter in the system. The monitors flashed green and red, moaned indecipherably, whirs and screeches that – unmet by rushing attendants – were usual sounds. T’s head bandaged tightly at the crown, odd pinkish coloring against her soft brown face swelling beneath. Scratched chin scabbed but healing.

Diagonal to her walled cubicle, angled so that only his blanketed legs were visible, he lay battered and broken.

His head, bandaged in white. Instead of a uniform ring, incongruent strips stretched haphazardly, clinging delicately to the places where Shoe’s skull had been. His face swollen beyond recognition. His usually bright eyes lost behind square patches of gauze.

At once the certainty that he’d soon be countering me in some public health debate was lost like a precious ring slipped from a long finger and settled, unnoticed, on a murky lake bottom.

I wiped my nose, snot leaking warm and mingling with stunned tears. I had expected bad, but tv bad, bad where everyone goes home at the end of the hour.

Returned to the waiting room, Randee hugged my neck – a gesture of shared loss that broke the insufficient emotional dam I’d been holding onto. I sat on the waiting room bench, hard and wooden, and juxtaposed Shoes’ and T’s emotionless faces against memories of their healthy laughter.

Around me, Shoes’ dad, T’s boyfriend, moved about sharing a joke with Davis and Meri – friends on the other boda that fateful Friday night. Friends that came upon the broken bodies of our friends flung from the boda by a hit and run driver. Friends that moved them from asphalt to ambulance, questionable Mulago hospital to reputed IHK.

Day four of their attentive vigil, they were all dry eyed. I was the traitor to the collective serenity. The relative improvement of T invisible to my newly seeing eyes. BLB arrived a few moments later, another welcome hug against the sadness and sense of helplessness and foreboding. Moments passed, and I regained my composure, offered a smile instead of tears.

For T, despite machine’s breath and nature’s swelling, the prognosis is good. The expectation is consciousness in the next few days. Already weaned from the morphine meant to keep the pain at bay, her family waits patiently for alert and recognizing eyes, for stability that can survive the flight to India and recovery there.

But Shoes…

his beautiful and gracious father emphatically shared his appreciation at our presence, the pleasure of seeing so many people touched by his son to gather in the small room- the covered patio outside- to sit in vigil with him as he waited for his wife and a miracle to arrive.

Shoe’s mother arrived, but the miracle joined that ring on the murky lake bottom. Early Wednesday morning B, Shoe’s roommate, whispered me awake.

“he’s fading…”

The harshest of realities, he was already gone.

I didn’t accompany B to the hospital. Substantial as Shoe’s imprint has been in my life over such a short time, my presence – my witness to his passing – felt wrong; although sitting on the couch wasn’t right either.

But then what could be right about a 25-year-old, fourth year medical student, fogarty scholar, gentleman, whiskey drinking, laughter filled, ray of sunshine losing sodium and blood pressure in a crowded ICU?

Chance introduced us and an impatient driver forced our farewell. Short time irrelevant, the memory of him etched in my memories weighed against his new absence is epic.

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9 Comments on ICU lament

  1. Lawrence Mumbe says:

    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honor the charge they made,
    Honor the Light Brigade,
    Noble six hundred.
    These lines of – into the valley of death – painfully attempt to summarise my raging thought;
    Its not the rich but the generous that give
    Nor the brave but the loving that risk
    and Neither the famous but the loved that are forever remembered.
    My mind plays his life; so short and yet I wonder if with my continued living will be able me to be the man he has been.
    We have read stories of love so sacrificing but before our eyes have we seen what it means to trade comfort for risk because one loves others beyond self.
    I ask myself, will I ever love my country like he loved it? cherish my people like he did?
    I ask again,
    When can their glory fade?
    O the wild charge they made!
    All the world wondered.
    Honor the charge they made,
    Honor the Light Brigade,

  2. LaDawn Fletcher says:

    Beautifully sad…

  3. Shikha says:

    Thank you so much for posting this.

  4. Ali says:

    How eloquent and thoughtful – much like the man we mourn. Thank you for this gift.

  5. Aunt Linda says:

    Oh Linnea, so sorry for the loss of your friend and for his family and friends – many prayers going out as yall grieve his passing. Also prayers for the recovery of your other friend. Glad you are there with their family and friends to share the grief and waiting and to strengthen each other. Luv u.

  6. Reumac says:

    Really sorry for your loss. Guess we have to take up the revolution for him.

  7. becky says:

    I did not know him… but this is soo beautifully sad. and i wish i did. R.I.P Sujal. still sending prayers his way- this time for his soul (though God knows, his beautiful soul seems not to need that many)

  8. Moreen says:

    When i get where i am going…….., Don’t cry for me down here ……….. I will see him again.
    God bless you my friend.

  9. Manoj Parikh says:


    Thanks for posting this beautiful narration of our and every friend of Sujal’s Pain.

    Manoj & Sita Parikh

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