June 03, 2007

The Unbearable Sadness of Being

The day Dra. Donut Kho died, the whole hospital staff wilted in their grief. From the nurses to the orderlies up to her co-residents, all of them felt a heavy burden weighed upon their shoulders with some even reinacting some parts from the film, "Crying Ladies" albeit trebled at a much telenovelesque tone. I felt bad when I learned about her demise. I saw Dra. Kho during my ER duty but I've never felt close to her- probably that's because I haven't had a one-on-one conversation with her. This is why I didn't cry for her passing.

Conversely, I broke down one ER night when my patient who went back for another check-up died. A few weeks prior to her death, this patient went to the ER due to chest pain. ECG findings showed to be consistent with angina. And Angina is just a Troponin away from being a Myocardial infarction. I strongly suggested to the family that she be admitted at the ICU pending a Trop-I result. This patient vehemently refused to be admitted and her children were helpless in forcing the old lady to do so. In the end, she went home against medical advice. Fast forward a couple of weeks: same patient came in due to chest pain but this time her lungs were congesting. Same ECG findings and her condition was not that good. Fast forward one hour: I was doing an Ocho-ocho on top of this patient's chest when the mother of the adjacent patient who took a swill of pestcide shouted at me complaining, "Why are you not giving us medical attention?! My patient needs help pronto! You're just trying to revive someone who will be dead anyway!" to which I retorted, "You have to ask the children of this patient if it's ok for me to leave her to die just so I can take a look at your patient who by her own stupid free will wished herself death anyway!" With that, the pesticide-drinking freak left my ER along with her ilk, and after a few minutes of hurriedly trying CPR, my own patient left this world.

People grieve for a lot of things but most cry because of a loss of a loved one. My mom once commented among her friends that I was a "dry" person- her acerbic way of describing me as emotionally unattached. That's true. I never feel grave emotions during melodramatic moments, of mushy-mushy sentimental moments or even a death of someone I am apathetic about. But after my parents died, I became more sensitive to the sadness of the someone's immediate loss. I feel terrible when patient's die and worse if I see his/her children, siblings, parents, co-workers wail and howl in front of the deathbed. It gives you a knot in the gut and your lacrimal ducts work overtime. I feel so bad because that patient could have been my mom, my dad, my sister, my other loved ones. And the feeling of death is oftentimes unbearable.

When my parents died, I was still in training and it was frustrating to see that I was helpless to do something for them considering the profession I was taking was the same field that could have saved them. It was gut-wrenching and mind-numbing. Now that I am in a position of direct intervention, I view patients who die under my service as that of my kin too. Perhaps this feeling of pain and sadness is merely a tranference of my own sad experiences, and that I am in a way making up for the times I wasn't helpful during my parents' death. And if my patient's die, I feel as if my own also died.

Naturally, not all patients were created equal, so it is only for those who I had a personal connection with to whom my tears are reserved. And limited they are.

1 comment:

AngelMD said...

wat can i say j? been there...still experiencing it...=( and these people are telling us that we become numbed and insensitive of our patient's death? if they only know the real score...if i have the power to turn that folk of that patient of urs into dust, i would. remember him?hehe