|She was still alive.
||[Feb. 19th, 2009|07:41 am]
As her mother lay there dying, she stared at me, eyes full of the whirlwind of emotions that were sweeping through her at that moment, tossing her around, tearing at her heart, searing her soul. She was trembling, and her eyes carried the hint of that one last tear about to crest the dam of her eyelids, heralding the torrent of pent up frustrations, disappointment and grief. She stared at the fluid-infused skeleton of a body that she called her mother, racked by seizures, bloated by a faltering heart, supported by a dilapidated respirator, dying from months of accumulating metabolic waste and acids. |
Her meandering narration plucked painfully at my heart strings, as if the story of her mother, which had no relevance to me before, came alive with her clumsy yet personal recount of events. She confessed her irresponsible neglect, her stupid excuses, her insurmountable poverty, her 12 hungry parasite-infested children who would never get an education or know their father. It all just flowed out as my mind silently sifted through the flood of information, ravaging through her heart-wrought life story, discarding all the useless emotional baggage and meaningless sepia-tinted memories for the cold, hard medical facts essential for my arrogant medical analysis. After she listened to an oversimplified prognostication of her mother's condition, she committed her life insurance plan that was her last few pesos, already pillaged by the ambulance driver, to the futile battle of a disease that had already overwhelmed her mother's half-dead corpse.
Later I found her wandering the ill-lit corridors of the hospital as I returned to my callroom, as lost as the Tagalog-translated instructions I gave to her, as tired and slow as the malignant squalor gnawing at the pathetic life she has led so far. She almost did not recognize me as she fearfully asked from this white coat for another poorly translated version of directions to the laboratory. With a sudden flash of recognition, she complained to me wearily about the cost of my ordered laboratories I had already whittled down to the barest essentials, about the expense of the cheapest alternative medical regimen I could possibly design.
She asked me again if there was any hope to be found. Holding back the extreme irritation of someone who has stayed up for the past 36 hours and the pent-up frustrations of a doctor whose knowledge of the ideal has to be tempered by the real, I recounted to her the slow process of organ failure that had occurred over years of derelict inattention, exacerbated by the concocted remedies prescribed by ignorance, and sustained by the inadequacies of their socioeconomic status.
Finally, she makes the best decision she had since leaving her drunk drug-addicted husband: she decides to leave the hospital. As she made her final preparations, she thanked me profusely, offering one of her final pesos, giving her warmest hug, beaming an inspired smile. It was as if her decision had given her a new lease on life, rejuvenating her despite its mortal consequences.
As I recall this pitiful patient and her distraught daughter, I feel an inner emptiness expanding to reclaim my exhausted heart into that tantalizing wasteland of blinded numbness... it almost overwhelms me. Damn you corrupt powerful! Damn you apathetic animals! Damn you uncaring reality!