He's really a sad case, Dr. Gregory House, but it's an interesting show. A bit predictable, but what do you want? It's television.
Locked-In Syndrome is real, too.
This past week, we watched what was probably the MOST pro-life show we've ever seen - from anyone. And I'm not even sure if the writers intended it to be that way.
This post will contain spoilers, so if you've got "House" stored up on the DVR, then skip this one and come back when you've watched it.
You've been warned.
Go away now if you don't want to see the entire plot.
Okay, here we go.
The show opens in the patient's perspective. Doctors and nurses appear, blurry, slightly out-of-focus, mumbling. Everything goes dark, then it all comes back in a slightly different setting. Still mumbling, not clear. Finally, we see a doctor who says, "He'll make a good heart donor."
The focus becomes sharper as we hear a voice cry out, "No! I'm not dead! I'm right here! Listen to me! Listen! I'm not dead!" Yet the doctors cannot hear.
Dr. House comes in from the side, and tells the doctor that he doesn't think the patient is brain dead, despite the incredibly low brainwaves that typically denote a lack of cerebral function. However, House isn't AT his hospital. He's a patient in the ER there. And this doctor is not interested in his opinions. House insists that the patient is in there somewhere. "If he's brain dead, how come his eyes are following you?"
So far, we have nothing but the patient's perspective, and, quite frankly, it's a bit scary. He's in there, trying to communicate, agreeing with House, begging for a reprieve from his death sentence.
His wife is brought in, and she's tearful. House appears again, in a hospital gown, and tells her (not that anyone asked him) that her husband is NOT brain dead. He's in there, but has "locked in syndrome," which is preventing him from speaking to them. The patient thinks/says, "I like him. Make him my doctor!" She looks at her husband with doubt, and House insists. He asks a question, tells him to blink once for yes, twice for no. When the patient responds, we know he's in there, and we know he'll be in the care of Dr. House soon.
Throughout the show, House is compelled to find a way to save this man, restore his communication abilities, and give him back to his family. The man sees this as a gift from God, but House sees it as interesting (and nothing more). House is accidentally doing the right thing.
All throughout the show, we are put again and again in the patient's body, thinking thoughts of love and desperation to family, begging doctors for help, crying out in pain. None of it is heard at all. When his children come to visit (after he blinks twice for no so his wife doesn't bring them to see him this way), he realizes that his wife is afraid he will die and has brought the children to see him "one last time." Another doctor hurries the family out, then leans down and says, "You were crying..." Your heart just breaks for this man, trapped inside of himself.
House works like mad to save him and release him from the prison that is his body, and finally does it. But, as I said before, House's motivation is to break the code, solve a puzzle. To him, the patient is a puzzle, not a human being. But the man knows better. "God sent you," he says to House at the end.
The idea here, the whole thing, was so amazingly pro-life that we saved the episode to watch again. With all the talk of "quality of life" and "brain death" and whether or not organ donors are really and truly gone when their organs are harvested, this episode was very, very timely. We were forced into the situation, forced to think about what it might be like to be that person that doctors said was beyond hope, beyond recovery. But, as the Anchoress is fond of saying, doctors don't know everything. And they are sometimes wrong. There are many people out there who prove this every day. And many people whose lives, on paper, look like they'd be frightening and unfulfilling and pointless, but are not.
Locked-In Syndrome is real, too.
One more amazing thing here. This episode was aired on Monday, March 30, the day before the fourth anniversary of the murder of Terri Schaivo, who was not ill, did respond to her parents and family, and was heartlessly dehydrated to death over a painful, two-week-long process.
What might her thoughts on the situation have been?