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A Day in the Life of a Volunteer in the NeuroTrauma Intensive Care Unit

By: Anthony Aquan-Assee

It is 7:30 am and a patient who had just been airlifted to St. Michael’s Trauma Hospital is being transported to the resuscitation room in the emergency department.  This patient was involved in an extremely serious motorcycle accident and he has sustained a very severe head injury as well as many other life threatening internal injuries. He will have to undergo emergency neurosurgery and then he will be taken to the NeuroTrauma Intensive Care Unit (TN-ICU) on the 9th floor.  

The patient’s parents, Josephine and Ken had arrived at the hospital shortly after they had been notified of the accident by the police. They waited in the emergency department hoping they would find out more information about their son. Many hours had passed and it was already late in the afternoon before a doctor approached to inform them that their son was undergoing emergency neurosurgery after which he would be taken to the Neuro-Trauma Intensive Care Unit (TN-ICU) on the 9th floor. 

Josephine and Ken dragged themselves to the ninth floor feeling like robots, devoid of emotion. As they exited the elevator, they saw a room filled with people, as well as people sitting in the blue chairs that lined the hallway. So many other visitors and no room for privacy.  On the wall outside the waiting room was a buzzer that allowed the visitors to contact the I.C.U. 

Josephine gestured to her husband, Ken and then extended her finger towards the buzzer. She stopped when she heard a cheerful voice saying, “Hello, can I help you find someone?” 

A man wearing a green jacket sat at a desk with a sign on it that said, ‘Volunteer on Duty.’

“We’re trying to find our son. A doctor told us downstairs that he was being brought to the neuro-trauma intensive care unit. Are we in the right place?” 

“Yes, you are. My name is Anthony and I am the volunteer on duty.”

Anthony reached into his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper with names on it and examined in carefully. “What’s his last name?” The parents quickly replied in unison.

“Ah, yes, here he is. He’s in bed number 10. First, let me check with the nurse to see if it’s okay for you to go inside and visit him.” 

He left Josephine and Kenneth standing there, exasperated that they had to wait again before they could see their son. After several minutes of restless waiting, while the hallway filled with people and then emptied again, the volunteer returned. 

With an impassive look on his face, he escorted the parents to bed number 10 in the I.C.U., where their son lay unconscious. 


They gasped in horror when they got to their son’s bed. Their eyes were wide and their mouths open.  Josephine reached out and grabbed Kenneth’s arm to steady herself.  Their son was swollen, battered and bloody. His head had been shaved and thick surgical staples held together a massive incision that ran down the side of his head, looking almost as if it were a train track.  

He also had many tubes draining fluids from different parts in his head and body. 

The volunteer handed them a box of tissues as he turned to leave.  

As soon as the volunteer left the ICU he was immediately approached by another family. 

“Our daughter is in the ICU, may we please go see her?,” the lady asked as she handed her daughter’s name card to the volunteer. Anthony reached into his pocket for the patient census sheet to check on the bed number for their daughter.  “Please wait here while I check with the nurses to see if you can visit her.” 

The nurse tells Anthony to only bring in two of the family members.  Ironically, this family’s daughter is in the bed across from the other family’s son.  It is essential that the volunteer provide support, comfort and assistance to these families as their loved ones are facing the life and death situation that is seen on a regular basis in the TN-ICU.  

The good news is that this man who was involved in the serious motorcycle accident survived. Anthony Aquan-Assee is his name. Two years after his accident Anthony decided to give back to St. Michael’s Hospital, by volunteering in the TN-ICU for giving him the gift of a “Second Life and a Second Chance.”  

Anthony has been a dedicated volunteer in the TN-ICU at St. Michael’s Hospital for over 20 years.


Anthony Aquan-Assee


  • torrent
    Posted January 11, 2021 at 4:27 pm

    Very good article! We are linking to this particularly great content on our website. Keep up the good writing. Lyndsay Renaud Fishman

    • Post Author
      Anthony Aquan-Asee
      Posted February 26, 2021 at 6:03 pm

      Hi Lyndsay Renaud Fishman. Thank you very much for your kind words. I really appreciate this.
      Wishing you the best.

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