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What We’re Reading: Dying in the ICU – One Family’s Perspective

Blog Post · January 28, 2016

In Love in Sickness and in Health (published in Sweden in 2009 and recently translated into English), Valentina Ericson tells the story of the death of her beloved husband. A writer for one of Sweden’s biggest daily newspapers, Per Ericson is suddenly stricken with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma that takes him from being a vibrant husband and father of two loving little girls to a patient with multisystem organ failure in the ICU.

The book tells, in diary style, how Valentina tries to cope with the reality of her husband’s rapidly failing health, while also keeping her daughters’ lives as normal as possible.

When the end is near, Ericson is already intubated in the ICU, separated from his family by the ICU rules and routines we are all too familiar with. This compelling yet simple narrative tells a cancer story that does not end well. It provides an ICU cancer death from the family’s point of view — something we can imagine but rarely truly comprehend.

This story will bring tears to your eyes not only for the loss for Valentina and her children, but because it shows us the cold reality of how modern health care has transformed the death experience for many people and their loved ones.

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