Hospital lessons (2)

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Back in December 2013, I wrote a blog post about life lessons working in a hospital as a medical officer gave me. So, I thought why not continue that…for as long as I have the stories to share.

I had attended a workshop once and the person facilitating it asked us what we thought was the greatest fear (in general) that people had. Most would think, death. Surprisingly, the biggest fear is the fear of public speaking! Yea..interesting eh?

So yes, death. There are a lot of views and stories about death. Why we fear it, why we don’t like to talk about it (sometimes), what it is and how it affects those who are left behind. These two stories and one lesson that I learned isn’t about any of that.

Story 1:

I was the on-duty medical officer working the night shift in the Accident & Emergency department. The shift had just started and the waiting area was full of people that needed to be attended to. A patient was pushed into the consulting room in a wheelchair. He was fully conscious but in pain. He had been involved in an accident that resulted in a fractured right femur (thigh bone) and clavicle. His friends and family who accompanied him had already decided to take him to a private hospital for treatment and I did the necessary to accommodate the transfer . Mind you, even with both fractures, he didn’t have a scratch on him.

Fast forward a few hours and about a gazillion patients later…one of the on-duty Medical Assistants (MAs, who are the equivalent of male nurses) comes into the consulting room and says, “Boss, bad accident. Police are bringing in the body.”

Now, I worked in a smallish district hospital. The mortuary (morgue) was situated all the way at the back of the hospital. To get there, you gotta walk along not well lighted, very quiet and kinda eerie corridors exposed to the night and all the nightly “visitors” that may be loitering about. I mean, hospital…mortuary…you know? So, if we are lucky enough to have no patients in the resuscitation room (fondly called the resus room), that’s where a body goes for us to examine and do the necessary. That night was such a night.

Fast forward again about 2 hours and another few billion patients, I enter the resus room, say hi to the cops waiting and proceed to take a look at the body. I had never till that day seen the sight that greeted me. The poor man didn’t have a face. The skin and muscles were all there…but he had no skull. It looked like his face had melted…and the left side of his body was a complete mangled mess. Save to say that every single bone on that side of the body had been fractured. And on a piece of paper beside him was some of his brain tissue that someone had scooped up from the scene.

Here’s the thing. Remember that patient with the two fractures and not a scratch on him? Well, BOTH these men were in the SAME car when that accident happened. They were on a long stretch of road when this huge trailer  heading the opposite direction decided to over take another vehicle. The trailer had rammed into the car. The passenger in the front survived with the 2 fractures and the horror of what had happened, while his friend, the driver lay in front of me.

Story 2:

A few years later, I was working in the Anaesthesiology department at the same hospital. We “gave gas”, hehe…and looked after the ICU as well. It wasn’t a very big set up but good for a district hospital.

This time we had these two patient lying side-by-side in the ICU. One was an elderly man, thin, tired and with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Ventilated, with drugs keeping his blood pressure steady, and just…you know..not in a good condition. In the bed beside him lay a young boy, healthy prior to admission, no prior significant medical history and admitted for a serious infection that required ICU care. The specialist that I worked with was discussing the cases with me and he said, “I think it’s best we talk to that uncle’s family. Prepare them for the worse and if he does deteriorate and we can’t do anything for him, give the family the option of taking him home so that he can depart in his own home with his family around”.

Yea..you should have guessed where I was going with this story. The elderly uncle made it through with flying colours. He got better and we moved him back to the ward. He went home to his family. The young boy unfortunately didn’t make it.

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You know, these two stories have stayed in my memory for so long. It’s been almost more than 10 years since both happened and I can still remember them. Not so much the faces, not so much even the “feeling”…but I don’t know what to call it…the essence of what happened?

Intellectually I do know that we can’t ever predict when it’s our time. I’ve heard stories of healthy people so careful with their life styles dropping dead while out jogging while someone who leads an “unhealthy” life style lives a very long and happy life. I guess actually seeing this and experiencing this through these souls at the time that I did, just made it more “real”. It made that knowledge that I had into something more. It made it an experience and a reminder for me that our lives, MY LIFE is only a temporary thing. It reminds me that I shouldn’t really take me seriously, you know?

16 thoughts on “Hospital lessons (2)

  1. Your stories remind me of a popular US TV show called Grey’s Anatomy, which is about a Seattle Hospital and its surgeons lives at work and outside work. I would imagine you have seen so much death in your work, but you also have the privilege if saving lives, assisting souls in carrying out their life plans.

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    1. I don’t know about that…but if I ever have truly..then I am grateful…because for some reason…I’ve always taken it for granted that a person’s life and that they become well wasn’t really my effort..or I never really put much thought on the part I had to play..because I guess I have taken it to be God’s..Source’s…grace and doing, not mine. Does that sound weird? LOL.

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  2. Reading your article brought me back to the time where a friend confided in me about her mum. Her mum had breast cancer and she was devastated. The mum on the other hand took it in her stride and went on with life increasing her practice in yoga. That was in year 2004. Just the other day I saw her in the night market- still her robust self.
    Going back to the year 2005 my mum who had just got a clean bill of health- collapsed n left us suddenly.
    We know not when it is our time but this I know for sure – the present moment is the only moment one has n the thing to do would be to embrace it fully be it our challenges or successes.

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  3. Interesting stories, You know Life is on a tread.. So finely balanced, I see it often.. on our very busy roads here which have lots of bends in them how others overtake on blind corners.. given a couple of seconds it seems life is timed out to perfection. of Life or Death..
    Did I tell you about my own experience.. years ago driving a lonely country road I drove each day to work.. Early in the morning.. I heard a voice in my head say slow down.. ( I wasn’t speeding ) The voice said again SLOW DOWN, I put my foot on the brake peddle but the break peddle was already half way down to slowing me down as I put my foot on it.. When I press it, I had almost come to a stop, just then another car sped around a blind bend at such speed he was on my side of the road.. Had I not listened.. or reacted.. I would I doubt be here telling this tale..
    Love and Hugs xxx

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  4. Very interesting tales, Shree. And yes, I know what you mean with regards to the ‘essence’ – I feel that a lot. We never know when our time’s up, so we may as well make the most of the time we have! 😀

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    1. Yes, that’s the idea…and more and more I feel like most of us are quite mad..we work and we work, to pay the bills and then we work some more to pay more bills…and then to think….money is really only paper that we as a race have given this insane value to…I wonder how it would be to live in a world where it’s back to the bartering system..

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  5. Life is a very strange thing, and we usually take most of it for granted. So much of it is taken up by making enough money to live, that we often don’t really take the time to live or the time to appreciate things

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  6. “I’ve heard stories of healthy people so careful with their life styles dropping dead while out jogging while someone who leads an “unhealthy” life style lives a very long and happy life.”

    Sometimes i too wonder about these things and i have also come across such cases. But then, that is the irony of life. As they say – the fellow, who believed and followed religiously the maxim – early to bed and early to rise……. – met with a fatal accident early one morning while his friend the late riser lived a long time afterwards to tell the tale.

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    1. Hello! and thank you for visiting and commenting! 🙂

      You’re right about the “irony” of life..though you know..at a soul level it isn’t so. Meaning, our souls are really quite ok with whatever time we leave our physical body..if you know what I mean?
      Life in itself is really quite simple, I truly believe. However, I feel that our minds..can’t believe that is so..and makes things too complicated. I’ve often tried to look at things from the “soul level”..meaning really zooming out to see the “big picture”…and all it’s done is made me confused..lol.

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