Saturday, April 25, 2009

Open letter

There's an article about your accident in the local paper. If you look online, you can see there all the dozens of comments from you friends, family and colleagues. They talk about your heroism and humour and what they loved about you. I didn't know about this before. I wasn't sure of your name until now.

The last time I saw you, you were on the operating table. I'd followed you from ED to the theatre. You know, you've gained some fame in the hospital, because of how the trauma guy made your heart start again in ED by clamping your aorta! That was a small miracle in itself. We were all full of hope then, and I can tell you that there was a frantic effort to save you. The surgeons worked with fierce attention, I could tell even from outside the window. When they left, the intensivists took over the business of trying to keep you alive. They tried everything in the book and few things beyond. And then, finally, they stopped.

We watched as the monitor slowed and slowed and finally came to a flat line. It's the first time I've ever seen it happen that clearly. The cause of death was exsanguination, we were told by the anaesthetist. Bleeding out, bleeding in...blood in your belly and blood on the floor. It was an ugly way to go. I remember thinking, I hope those movies are wrong, the ones where the spirit hovers over the body immediately after death. I hope you didn't have to see yourself exposed, bloated, blue and bloody.

But you're probably wondering why I'm writing. It's out of remorse. I'm sorry I was a voyeur, along with so many others. It was a circus. I'm sorry I was pumped with adrenaline from the drama of the moment, because it made me callous. I examined my feelings in those early stages and it scares me that I couldn't find much sympathy for you. There was only a competitive desire to see what was going on, looking for a good vantage point. You were anonymous to me. I'd met your partner and the boy in the ED as well, but it hadn't clicked that you were part of the same accident...and when it did, I still couldn't feel their loss. I'm sorry that even as you were dying, I was fascinated and even a little thrilled to see how it happened. I'm sorry that the other students and I stood not even two feet from your body and chatted and laughed as though you weren't there. I don't even know if dignity in death is absurd or what, but your body was you not so long ago, and we should have respected that. I felt the wrongness but didn't act. I'm sorry that I've told your story to so many, as though you were my first battle scar. Even this is an example of that. I'm sorry it's taken so long for the meaning to sink in for me.

I've read that you too saw violence and death in your line of work. Did you ever imagine someone would be looking upon you as you looked upon the broken bodies of others? I guess the watchers must all eventually become the watched, in the end. I still can't quite connect what I know about you now, the dad and mate and husband you were, to what I saw that day. It's funny, because compared to everything you did before that day, your death was the smallest, least important event of your life. But it's become significant in mine.

What is there left to say? I never knew you. I'll remember you. RIP.

1 comment:

Dragonfly said...

There is such a tension between our education for the future benefit of others and the patient, here and now. Like many things, I think that being aware of the tension is the key, which you described beautifully. Thanks for sharing this.
Newtons comment about standing on the shoulders of giants often applies to us, seeing the suffering of others and hopefully using it for good in the future.
That we may see further. RIP.