That's the word that comes to mind when I reflect on the four nights I spent in the lounge areas of a hospital's intensive care unit at the end of May.
I wasn't the only person curling up on a couch with a hospital pillow and blanket, falling asleep under bright lights that annoyingly stayed on all night. I met several interesting people, all of us drawn together because a loved one was in the hospital with serious health issues.
Two nights are particularly memorable.
On my second night in the ICU lounge, a man came in and asked if he could take the other couch. Of course, I said. He noticed I had brought my own blanket from home that night, left the lounge and came back with a sleeping bag.
I have to admit, a first thought was, “He's going to snore.” And boy, oh boy, did he ever snore. I eventually got up, gathered my things as quietly as I could and headed for an adjoining lounge. The longer couch was already taken, as was a shorter couch. I took another shorter couch and appreciated the silence.
At some point I woke up and figured it had to be 7 or 8 a.m. The longer couch was empty, except for a folded blanket and pillow. The woman on the other shorter couch was in a recliner looking at her cell phone. I could see the snoring man through a window and he was looking at his cell phone too. I looked at my phone - 2 a.m.
It took me a minute to comprehend this. Why was everyone else awake? I thought about moving to the longer couch, but it just didn't seem right.
The next time I woke up, the snoring man was sleeping again and the woman in the recliner had moved to the longer couch. I later talked to her and learned why she was staying in the ICU lounge.
I don't know what happened to the snoring man. He slept - and snored - on the ICU lounge couch late into the morning. I never saw him again. I wondered if he was homeless or really had someone in the hospital.
I know I'll never forget my fourth night in the ICU lounge. That's when I met my ICU friend, Angela, who was at the hospital for her brother-in-law. My group had talked to her father-in-law the previous day, who told us, “My boy's going to be OK.”
Apparently, his boy took a turn for the worse because I woke up on the ICU lounge couch the next day to hear the father telling someone on the phone that his son was dying. It was such a personal and heart-breaking conversation that I had no right to be hearing. I wanted to get up and leave, but didn't want to draw attention to myself.
Fortunately, that man took another turn for the better and didn’t die. That night, I met Angela when she and I had the ICU lounge's longer couches. We shared our stories of why we were there, and she asked if she could read a psalm out loud to me. I'll never forget the sound of her voice reading it. I asked her to text me that psalm, and we've remained texting friends.
Angela told me about her family, including her son who was flying home from overseas. When she introduced him to me that next day, I had to hug him because I felt like I knew him.
Angela and I both believe we needed each other that night of our “sleepover.” She remains an inspiration for me.
Like I said - surreal. Surreal in a good way. That describes my four unforgettable nights in an ICU lounge.