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The Mourning

16 April 2011 No Comment

Being an anesthesiology resident in the Obstetrics and Gynecology OT
at Nair Hospital was no mean job. There was the routine OT list, the
emergencies and the cranky surgeons and sometimes even crazy seniors
to handle. But the job has to be done, right and that too with a
smile, and we did it.

December 2009, while the routine OT is still on, we get a call,
‘Emergency Laparotomy for an unruptured ectopic gestation in the
fallopian tube’ which means an emergency surgical exploration of a
lady who had conceived, but unfortunately the fetus was outside the
uterus in the fallopian tube. Fallopian tubes are the tubes which
transport ovum or the embryo from the ovary to the uterus. I went to
the waiting area to see this lady pre operatively. She looked
distraught and strangely familiar. I could not place her, but she was
familiar nonetheless. She was past 35 years, and had undergone a tubal
recanalisation surgery few months ago. I noted down the rest of her
medical history, did a quick physical examination and explained the
surgery and anesthesia to her. She knew her baby could not be
salvaged, being in a place where there is neither nutrition nor enough
place for her baby to grow. The whole point of the surgery was to save
her life, lest the tube rupture.

After taking her consent I did something I had never done before, I
asked her a question that was too personal– the reason why she had
undergone a recanalisation surgery, or a surgery that involves
reversal of a tubal ligation. The answer was obvious… she had
undergone a tubal ligation which is, for all practical purposes, a
permanent method of contraception. Then for some reason, she wanted to
have a child again so late in her life. I was curious to know the
reason.

“I lost my son to brain cancer” she said with a few tears in her eyes.

I was starting to figure out why I knew her…. still I persisted

“Where was your son admitted and how long ago did he die?”

“He was here, at the same hospital… He passed away last November”

“His name was Aditya? I asked her to which she did not reply but
broke down into tears instead. I did not pacify her, I broke down with
her too into a

discreet few tears.

I remembered Aditya very well. He was a 10 year old boy operated for a
malignant brain tumour and had died in the ICU a few months after the
surgery. He had died while I was posted in the ICU and was on duty.
And he was probably the only patient whose death and the suffering
prior to that had affected me so deeply, probably because of his
tender age. I remember having shed a few tears for him after seeing
his grandmother break down once in the ICU. She was the one who mainly
cared for him, with his sister and mother visiting on and off. While
I cried for him when he lived, I somehow did not mourn his death when
he died in my arms, in front of my eyes. And I mourned for him the day
I met his mother once again, a year after his death.

Being doctors who see death and suffering so often does make us tough
but some incidents like these do break our tough outer layers and
touch our hearts and make us cry.

Disclaimer: The kid was not named Aditya. The name has been changed to
protect the identity of the child and his family.

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