"Unhook me from these machines. I am going home now and not a moment later."
More than an hour before, I stood by the bedside and watched as the team worked furiously to resuscitate him. Esophageal varices, a cluster of severely dilated and pressurized veins, had been slowly brewing within him over his many years of alcoholism. With the tension of its walls reaching the breaking point, the time bomb had exploded in a torrential gush of blood.
A man struggled with severe depression and suicidal ideations for many years. No amount of counselling, medication, and therapy could lift him from the bleak depths of his own personal hell.
He had been involved in the loss of a life. On a dark and rainy night in the summer of yesteryear in a far and remote place, a car barrelled through a stop sign into his own. He was hurt, but she was gravely wounded. Without phone reception and without a soul in sight, he carried this stranger with him on that lonely road hoping to find help, to find anyone. In that darkness, the stranger died.
Racked with guilt and a sense of helplessness, he spiralled into depression with a burden of having not saved this person from their fate. Every night, the nightmares came; every night, he failed to save her. It was agony.
One day, the doctor tried something new. “I want to you take control of your dreams. Think of new endings to that moment. Let your thoughts carry themselves into your dreams. Change what happens.” The man was puzzled. “Perhaps imagine yourself to be Superman. Fly her to the nearest hospital. Maybe dream up an ambulance.” The man was hesitant to try, but decided with everything else they already did, what was the harm in trying?
"You do not recognize me, do you?" A stranger said to the doctor one day at a coffee shop. He looked up perplexed but suddenly recognized the man he had seen those many months before. It surprised him. The man was smiling, well kept, and spirited. The difference was night and day.
"It worked, doctor. Your dream therapy worked for me. Thank you."
"Did you save her in your dreams? Was that what it took?"
"No. I was never able to save her. But one day some months later in my dream, carrying her as I always did down that lonely road, I heard words she never spoke, but words that helped to give me closure."
"What did she say to you?"
"Thank you for not letting me die alone."
The patient was going to have a C-section.
"Let’s go see the patients together," said the nurse. I followed, coming to the realization that it was a two-patient case; for now, we could only speak to one.
I had spent very little time in surgery beforehand. Initially, the trouble was not about knowing how to scrub - this was further down the list. Rather, the initially worry was finding my way to what I needed to do. I scurried down halls, asked directions, and walked through the same halls again.
This morning, barely past seven, I worried about keeping pace. The nursing station was gathering a crowd as nurses and doctors checked in with the morning schedule. We walked into the holding area and found an obvious match: the only patient there with a round belly, anxious but excited.
I have heard of it from professors and classmates but I have not read it.
As part of my new years resolution of finding some balance to my daily life, my significant other has suggested that leisure reading would be a good way for me to unwind from studying. I’m trying to get into two books at the moment, one of which is Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande. It was one she highly recommended and so far it has been a great read.
I will give House of God a try sometime in the future. If anyone else has recommendations for books, feel free to share your suggestions with everyone below.