A fitting epitaph !!
By Vivek Hande
I am a doctor or maybe I should say I was a doctor. I am a little confused and I am not sure what I should call myself. I have been in the medical business for more than twenty years. I have seen death up front and close more often than I care to remember. There are colleagues of mine who are battle hardened, so to say and take the death of a patient in their stride. I still get upset after so many years and feel helpless and inadequate. But yet, it is quite different when it is your own death you are talking about!
It was a bright Saturday morning. I jauntily walked out of the car park and took the lift to the fifth floor to my chamber. I cheerily waved out to the intern who threw me a dazzling smile on the corridor. I was just reaching my department when I suddenly felt a sledge hammer hitting my chest and crushing me in a vice like grip. I could feel rivulets of sweat trickling down my forehead and I could feel myself falling to the ground – a boneless heap. The next few minutes were a blur. I could vaguely sense a lot of activity around me. My next recollection is of the cold steel of the trolley assaulting my back. I recollect being rushed into the lift and somebody shouting, “Get him to the ICU fast!” I really wished the medical assistant holding my hand would be gentler. I realized we were in the ICU when the blast of the air-conditioned room hit me and I heard the beep of the monitors in the background. I felt myself being propelled from the trolley onto the bed in a single synchronized movement. I felt the nurse jabbing the cannula into my vein and another one on the other forearm. My arm was about to burst as the resident tied the blood pressure cuff around my forearm and got the mercury rising to record my Blood Pressure. Before I could protest, I could feel my blood being drained- twenty milliliters seeping away for urgent tests. I tried protesting feebly as I felt a tube going down my nose and a stream of oxygen flowing through. I was immensely nauseated as I felt a stream of pink frothy sputum coming out from my mouth and settling at the corners of my lips. I could see the horror on the resident’s face as he blurted, “His lungs are flooding. He has pulmonary edema. Get the Cardiologist stat!”
As he prepared the injection of Morphine to relieve the flooding of the lungs, I was desperate to tell him that I was allergic to Morphine and had reacted adversely many years ago when it was administered for severe pain after a road accident.
However, no words came forth and I could feel the fluid trickling up my veins. I tried stiffening my arms in a desperate measure to stop the drug coursing through my system, but to no avail. I could feel myself get lightheaded and I could barely see the outline of the figures in a frenzy of activity all around me. I vaguely heard the Cardiologist, who had arrived on the scene by now, my friend and colleague for the past twenty years shouting, “He is going. I can’t get a pulse. We will have to shock him.” I could feel the cold slimy jelly being poured on to my chest and then the steel of the paddles of the defibrillator and then a hot searing rod of current through my skin and penetrating my bones once and then again and yet again for the third time. I could smell my burning skin and the smell of hopelessness pervading the room.
A montage of images crossed my mind and I could feel myself sinking away. Before I could brace myself, I felt a heavy thump on my chest and then a pair of hands pressing me down just below my ribcage. I am sure they were smooth, practiced movements and were meant to get life into what seemed like an ebbing tide, but I was sure I could feel a rib cracking. They kept at it for the better part of half hour and then I could gradually feel the intensity and the strength of the movements gradually reducing. The voices became fainter and fainter. The frenzy of activity seemed to gradually recede and abate. As my head jerked to one side, I saw a flat tracing on the cardiac monitor – I no longer existed. I had slipped away and I heard someone say, “He was a good doctor and a good man. A pity we failed to save him. We did try, as hard as he would have, to save a life”.
A fitting epitaph, perhaps!!