Friday, 19 August 2022

Three recent dreams

The silent concert

In this dream, I am with three other people in an apartment I do not recognise. One person is my music friend L who lives on the Gold Coast, who has always been very encouraging. One person is my other music friend W that I played piano duets with often in Sydney, who is quite an eccentric character. The third person I do not recognise at all, a lady in her late 40s or early 50s perhaps. 

There is a piano in the centre of the room that we are in. We take turns going up to the piano and playing short pieces. I play a waltz by Chopin, someone else has a turn, then I play some light jazzy number that I don't recognise. The others play little snippets of Mozart or Beethoven. The atmosphere is relaxed and we are enjoying the music together. 

Then L suggests that I play a violin-piano duet with W. (In real life I haven't played the violin much in recent months, because I mostly play viola or piano now). W is really enthusiastic about the idea, and we get out a book of Beethoven violin sonatas, something that I am really familiar with due to my real life Beethoven project with a different friend, though I haven't studied any of the sonatas in detail. 

I open my instrument,  a violin that I do not recognise. Whose violin is this? I wonder to myself. 

We open the book and it falls to number 5, Spring, the most famous of the Beethoven violin sonatas. I tune to the piano briefly and W looks at me expectantly, waiting for the cue to start. 

When I start to play, I hear that the sound is all distorted. It is as if I am taken back to the beginning of my violin learning, more than ten years ago, when I could hardly pull a bow across the strings and make it sound even remotely reasonable. The sound is really scratchy and I feel very exposed. 

Suddenly I realise that there is no sound of the piano. I look over at where W is playing the piano. I can see his fingers moving, his body moving, but I cannot hear anything. I look over at the other two ladies and they are entranced by the music, bobbing their heads up and down in appreciation. 

What are they hearing? I ask myself. 

The sound that is emitted from my strings is worse and worse, barely distinguishable and totally out of tune. It's as if a cat was playing the violin. I start to panic, and I hope for a reprieve from a piano solo, but the piano is totally silent. I cannot hear anything at all. 

When we finish, the ladies clap and cheer enthusiastically. L says that we should perform somewhere. 

Perform? I ask incredulously. How can we perform like this? 

She scrolls through her phone to find an event that we could perform at. She stabs her finger at certain music festivals - What about this one? 

Then I wake up. 

The path to France

In this dream I am walking on the street when I bump into a friend that I met when I was travelling in el Salvador in 2016. She is with my friend from university that I have lost touch with for a long time. They both have extremely long hair, which is not like their usual hairstyles. I have no idea how they know each other in the dream but they seem to be very friendly with each other. 

When I bump into them, they are both re-doing their hair. Their tresses are so long and silky that I stop to admire their hair. (In real life, my hair has been undergoing a disastrous transformation during covid). They greet me enthusiastically and ask me if I am ready for the big trip. 

The big trip? I ask them in confusion. 

We are all going on the big trip together! They announce almost in chorus and giggle. 

I go back to my apartment in the dream, somewhere that I don't recognise. S is there, packing things. I guess we are all going together. 

We each have our backpacks and we go down to meet the two girls. When we get there, there is a big trail sign with the map of where we are going. They point to the campground where we are staying. 

No way, I'm not going there. S says. 

At that moment I realise that he has never said something so definitive to me in our real life. He usually beats about the bush and says a lot of other things before either having the truth extracted (because I am so impatient) or getting there through a series of complex oblique references. 

OK then, we won't go there. I reply. The other girls have disappeared at this point. 

We look at the map of the park together, and towards the eastern side of the park there is a trail that is marked with a dotted line, indicating a footpath only. 

It is then I realise that all the signs on the map are bilingual, in both English and French. But that last trail I see on the eastern side only has French. Then I realise that it is the path that takes us all the way to France.

This one? I ask S. But he does not reply and I wake up. 

The death of the child 

In this dream, I am in the ICU, one that I do not recognise. It's not one that I have worked in or visited. GF is there, one of my old colleagues in Sydney. 

He apologises to me profusely for handing over "a mess" to me. He explains the situation - it's a boy who has had a catastrophic brain injury and he is now brain dead. The parents do not want the life support to be discontinued, but they have accepted that today is the day it will be done. Of course he feels bad that he cannot carry it through, but I have taken over the clinical service today so it is my turn to look after all the patients in the ICU as per usual. I say a cursory "no worries, I'll take care of it" kind of thing and leave my colleague. 

I go into the room. The boy's parents are there, and one other woman who I soon understand to be the sister of the mother. The boy is lying inert in the bed, a boy of approximately 6 or 7. He is ventilated and has the usual ICU equipment on him. 

I start to say my usual spiel of "I'm sorry for the situation you are in... " and try to get an understanding of what they understand will happen next. The parents are silent but the aunt of the boy starts to cry. 

Unusually for an ICU, there is a desk with a large mirror in front of it, a mirror which perfectly reflects the situation. I see the boy in the bed and me in blue scrubs next to the bed, with the aunt standing next to me. The parents are at the foot of the bed and cannot be seen in the mirror. 

I become aware of a chair in front of the desk. Draped over the back of the chair is a beautiful dress, a cream coloured silk dress with a delicate floral pattern with pinks and greens. I wonder what the dress is doing inside the room and what it means. 

(Image borrowed from Google, not from the dream!)  

After a moment of taking in the desk, chair, dress and mirror. I start to examine the boy. 

I introduce myself and then ask "Can you show me your thumb?" My standard opening neurological examination question.
I'm not expecting him to move at all since my colleague had said he was brain dead, but I am convinced that he did move his thumb upward slightly.
Shocked, I ask him "Can you show me two fingers?" My usual follow up question.
He shows me two fingers, more definitively this time. 

I feel the weight of the silence in the room. I feel the eyes of his parents and aunt boring into me as I struggle to think of what to do next. 

"What's 1 + 1?" I ask the boy. 

He holds up two fingers again with his left hand. 

I hear a sob erupt from the mother, she buries her face in the shoulder of the father. 
I look back at the boy and I struggle to think of what is happening - how can a brain dead child suddenly be responding in this way? 

Suddenly, two nurses come into the room, pushing a stainless steel procedure trolley, the type we usually use to insert vascular lines in ICU. On it are a selection of surgical instruments, laid out neatly on a sterile drape. 

"Hurry up, doctor." The nurse closest to me says. "They are waiting over there."

"Waiting for what?" I ask. 

She doesn't reply and she starts to undo the tapes around the boy's mouth to take the breathing tube out. 

"Hang on a minute here." I move to stop her, putting my hand over hers. "This boy is not brain dead."

"It doesn't matter." She says and wrenches her hands free from mine. "They need his kidneys over there."

"But he's not dead." I say, my voice echoing around the room.

At that moment the aunt lets out a piercing scream and I wake up. 


  1. Wow! I am so impressed that you remember each dream in such detail. I have not remembered my dreams for many years. Occasionally, if I wake up in the middle of a dream, I might remember parts of it. Otherwise, I have no recollection in the morning.

  2. Those dreams give me anxiety, especially making me think about what you go through as a doctor.

    best... mae at