“So Many Things I Had Thought Forgotten” by Michael Padilla
Over the past year, the lifecycle of this project really, more than anything I’ve been trying to remember what life was like just a few years ago. Maybe better to think of it as finding myself falling into how life used to be. I had the misfortune of possessing a degree in nursing during a global pandemic and as nursing shortages were more than just a talking point back in 2020, I found myself working the infectious disease wards during some of the less agreeable moments of the last few years.
Photographically, since early 2020 I’ve been working on a series of Reference images, daily images, inspired by Harry Callahan’s old idea of not coming home everyday till you’ve shot a roll of film. I’ve used these images as reference points for the life events that were thrust upon us, and oftentimes there are narratives that develop subconsciously, and in this case they’ve coincided with the return to some sort of normality. I’m back to teaching, I’m in the hospital less, I’ve even started going out in the evenings occasionally, seeing people and places that had been not much but passing thoughts for a time.
© Michael Padilla
The prompt, for me, was a revisitation of everything I had thought lost, of So Many Things I Had Thought Forgotten.
© Michael Padilla
© Michael Padilla
Now those passing thoughts return to my less pleasant moments, which is why I’ve included the disposable hypodermic needle tips as pins for holding my photographs to the wall. The inspiration came from something I saw in the ICU during the end of the 3rd wave here in Seville. COVID messes with your veins and arteries making access to them more difficult so instead of us nurses placing arterial lines, which is something that is our competence, protocol had changed to the doctors placing arterial lines while their partner placed the central lines used to administer the medications that kept people alive and we would administer the medication and shadow the doctors. If you don’t have an arterial line, a direct read on blood pressure and heart rate, some of the medications are too risky to use, so they are important to have when you’ve been put in an artificial coma and placed on a respirator.
© Michael Padilla at the Regional Gallery, Darmstadt in Germany in Oct 2022
Well one patient came in to our ward, a transfer from another overflowing one, and the arterial line was in their foot, the arteria pedia in Spanish, which is most definitely not a common access point. So while hooking the patient up in our ward, sorting out meds, ensuring the respirator was functioning correctly, etc, we examined all of the other normal access points, the two radial, and two femoral arteries, and they were like pin cushions, full of holes. And itʼs not like the doctors doing this were untrained, especially not by this point in the pandemic. They weren’t bad at the technique, they were extremely well versed in the process and altogether we could have a patient intubated, with a central line and an artery and medication flowing in relatively quick fashion by this time. The poor patient was just severely affected by the complications that came with the virus, and as overloaded as we all were in the wards, without access to all the right tools whenever you need it, like an ultrasound to help locate the arteries, what needed to be done was done. I often think about, when I hang something myself, putting multiple holes in the corners of my images, the four access points, like that poor, unconscious and unaware individual.