The task is not to remember everything but remember to act on the past.

Memory is also a possibility of freedom

– Matías Marchant.


April 2016, Boston, Massachusetts, Cardiac Intensive Care Unit of Brigham and Women´s Hospital:

– “I am looking for Sharon Levine, ICU diary´s Project. My name is Maria Varela, a cardiac nurse from Santiago de Chile”.

This is the beggining of this story that joins two searches, one professional and other personal. But first something about me.

In my last year at school I didn´t know what profesion I would choose. I thought studying Literature, but the death of my mentor made me change my way. The question of my best friend was clue: “What would you like to do?”. I had read an article about Doctors without Borders, and I told her: “Help other people and be a doctor without borders?”. As you can read, I am not a doctor nor a poeth, but I have helped many people being a nurse.

On April 2016 I took a book for my travel: The book of life: a place for memory. The author, the psychologist Matías Marchant, relates the creation of a book for institutionalized children as part of their process of reparation for the loss of their personal story. Inside I could find out what happens when someone is snatched a part of the personal story. At the same time I discovered that the methodology work was similar than a nurse in Boston had done with patients who had been under sedation and ventilation to prevent Post ICU Syndrome: writing a book, using pictures, to rebuild this temporal and physical space that becomes blurred or full of constructions far from the reality.

I have been a nurse during eleven years, I have also been family of ICU patients, but I have never been in the ICU; How was possible I could understand perfectly what those patients were experiencing rebuilding their memory?

At ten days of life I came to my parents ‘ arms, because I was given in adoption. Love and gratitude towards my parents is irreplaceable, but something that is often not easy to explain happens when a part of the story itself is astray. I was in that process of searching for my own origins when I went to look for that nurse in Boston and I never imagined what would happen there. Talking with Sharon about her work was so inspiring for me that when I spoke to my medical manager, he wanted to make this a research project for our unit. This is the beginning of months of study, work, emails, brochure design with my best friend (yes, the same of the question in the school) until the day I was answered by Christina Jones with the contact of a nurse who has been developing ICU diaries since the Ninety in Sweden: Carl Bäckman.

Thanks to their support and many people I was able to apply for an internship in Sweden and England to learn and implement the ICU diaries for the first time in Spanish, in Chile. I learned that writing is also building reality and hope in the post UCI rehabilitation process. Personal and collective narrative, building with a view to the future, makes me appreciate today, more than ever, to work by joining two of my great passions in life, nursing and narrative.

Today I can say I am working hard for this Narrative Without Borders

By María Loreto Varela