Monday, November 9, 2009

Saving lives???

16 years old.

Intubated and ventilated by the doctors on the previous shift.

No beds available in the High Care Unit at the back of the hospital, so he was under our care in the front room for the night.

Not that there was much more we could do for him.

TB meningitis. Severe. Untreated. Currently brain dead.


Two huddled figures were standing next to him at the end of the bed.
Mother. Father.

I had to, uncouthly, squeeze past them to run the blood sample in the blood gas machine situated in the corner.

I tried not to make eye contact as I apologised for my rudeness.

But the father looked straight at me and then...he called me, softly, by my first name.

Shocked, I looked up at him.

The horror of recognition flooded through my veins.

I knew this man.

He was one of the barmen at a restaurant I worked at during my student days.

We used to chat and joke with each other to pass the time. He was one of the people who christened me with my Xhosa name, Ncumisa.

It means "she who causes a smile".

This was not the time for smiling.

His son was busy dying in front of us.

I was suddenly frightened, fearful, embarrassed that there was nothing more I could offer.

I found myself shaking, and my voice quivering, when I explained gently to him that his son would probably die.

He responded by nodding silently and accepting unquestionably everything I said.

'Goddamit!" I thought. "Fight with me! Tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about! Kick me out and request someone else to tell you that your son is gone forever. I'm the fucking GRIM REAPER, bearer of the worst news possible, but you're treating me with the respect reserved for someone who gets to make life or death decisions."

Sometimes this job just sucks.

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