It seemed that he had gone into a persistent vegetative state after a routine surgery. There was no identified toxic/metabolic/anatomic/structural/infectious/rheumatologic cause identified from results of a slew of extensive and sophisticated tests based on every possible near/far fetched hypothesis that could be tossed in the diagnostic process. His brain looked structurally normal with normal electric activity.But he continued to just stare blankly into the recesses of his room, like.... all hope of purposeful life had been sucked out of his existence, as heart continued to pound, blood flowed, lungs bellowed. But... to what end? What caused his neurons to be so benumbed... no one knew. I felt like I wanted to enter into his hippocampi /medial frontal area and tickle and see how they responded .
Only one thing stuck in the story : he had lost his wife to an acute illness a few months before.
I shivered at the thought when I heard the detailed story for the first time. I found it hard to picturize in my mind the fact that this man had slept beside the dead body of his wife for three days without alerting anyone of her death . They called him crazy and schizotypal, but he had been a 'normal' guy before her death plunged him into craziness.
There was incredible sadness when one entered his room after hearing this story. Like he was one with his wife at last, and we were no one to intrude in to this seeming oneness of two persons. I knew then that he would die soon. I had seen my grandfather shrink into this absurdity of purposelessness without my grandmother had passed. All their lives they had been so passive-aggressive to each other, but in the death of another, the unmanifested love had played out like a gutting opera tristis a la Ivan Illych gradually stenosing all life.
I asked Psych- "Could this be catatonia?" They said, " NO, please rule out an organic cause."
I thought, "yeah, sure!!! "
I felt like asking, " could the diagnosis be Sadness? "
They would have called me crazy, I know.
Disclaimer: The details of the above mentioned situation are a figment of imagination only.