Saturday, 18 January 2014

Just When I Think I've Seen The Saddest Shit Ever, Life Proves Me Wrong.

Alright, I think it's safe to say that this blog, over the years has officially transformed into a venting space for me. Gone are the days in which I try to find humor in a hopeless environment.
I hate that.
More than any of you will ever know.

Bear in mind this is probably one of the saddest stories I've had the liberty to witness. I tell it not because I want to, but because I feel it'll convey how truly hard life can hit some of us. So the next time you're sad about something, try to remember this story. I promise its resonance will haunt you for a while.

Deep breath. Here we go.

Like you all know, I work in a privately owned post operative ICU. That means we receive patients that undergo surgery and try our best to steer their fates into an absolute recovery rather than an absolute mortality.

A few months ago, a 9 year old boy had undergone a cardiac surgery. Due to circumstances 'beyond the hospital's control', he got an infection. Now, post operative infections are tricky things. Obviously due to the body's state, the immunity isn't quite up to par so we have to assault the infection with powerful antibiotics and hope for the best.

The kid wasn't responding. His prognosis was poor and after a month in the ICU, there was this silent understanding that he was going to die. We talked to the parents about it and they were very understanding about it. No arguments, no guns pulled out, no anger. There was acceptance and the subtle hope that maybe, just maybe, God would provide a miracle.

He stayed in the ICU for a good two months and a half. It happens. We call them 'fighters'. I'd bore you with all the horrific details (like the fact that the infection spread to the sternum and he had to undergo a surgery known as 'rewiring'  3 times because the sternum, when infected becomes brittle and needs sutures to fixate) but that's not the point. A week ago, when I was on call, it was clear that today was going to be the day. His systems were failing. I talked to the father, and told him, that today was probably going to be the day. Once again, I was met with understanding, acceptance and more importantly relief. Relief that today was going to be the last day in his daily struggle with dealing with the fact that his son was dying.

A few hours later, the father came to me and wanted to talk to my boss. Something about finances. When I asked for specifics he had said that he was worried that he still owed the hospital money and he was terrified that when his son would die, he wouldn't be able to take him and bury him. I counselled him and got my boss to tell him not to worry.
"Don't worry, that's not going to happen. You've already paid a large sum of money and we're sure we can somehow work out the details later." Those were the words my boss told him.

The father calmed down, and sure enough within a few hours, we called it.

The 'fighter' in him just stopped fighting and he died.

We broke the news to the father. He cried, and it was over and done with. We told him to go downstairs and finish up the paperwork and we'd prepare the corpse (he had an open wound). Another hour goes by, and the father comes upstairs again, distraught and unable to compose himself.

"They're not going to let me take my son until I pay them the remaining 6,000 LE. I have no money. I already sold some of my land and there is no way I can provide that sort of money right now. I don't understand. I've already paid 36,000 LE for my dead son. I know I owe the hospital money, but I just can't provide that money now."


I ran to my boss, told him that the father was waiting for him outside and informed him of the situation.

"Wait, so he knows I'm still here?"
"God damnit, fine, let me call the hospital owner."

The owner didn't pick up.

"Oh, so where is he exactly. Do you think I can manage to leave the hospital without him seeing me?"
"..............No. He's right outside."
"Fine, come with me."

His cynicism seared my brain.
His lack of empathy disgusted me.
Never before, did I truly harbor such anger towards a human being.

Anyways, he went outside and told the father that he'd go downstairs with him. This was around 1:30 am. The security guard accompanied the both of them downstairs and we all hoped that the situation would be dealt with.

At 4:30 am, the security guard came upstairs and told us that the father had just left with his son. The situation, although dealt with, took longer than expected because they couldn't find a mode of transportation to take the father and the body all the way to Aswan. They finally found a cab willing to go, for 1,800 LE.

There is no moral to this story. There is nothing I can write in bold or italics that sums up this situation in a few words.

His words still haunt me. He basically paid a huge sum of money for a body. Not just any body, but his 9 year old son's.

The reason this story bothers me so much isn't because the father went through Hell and back. It's not even the fact that maybe, just maybe, his son could have made it had circumstances been different.

It's the lack of empathy. The lack of respect. More importantly, the lack of humanity that is encouraged in the medical industry.

I understand that medicine, like any other profession, is a business and people have to make money but the line is blurry. It has to be.

I once said the health care system in Egypt is doomed, due to a variety of reasons.

I think that if I had to pick one though, it'd be our diminishing humanity. After all, how can you call yourself a healer of the sick, if you don't care about the sickly. 

What do you know. I was able to provide a statement.

God bless.

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