Saturday, May 17, 2008

The hours In-between Life & Death

"Doctor, Doctor…!” the Nurse screamed.
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The Doctor buzzed by the sudden intrusion in his work, replied, "Kya Hua?” (What Happened?)"
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"Doctor…its urgent, pleaseeee…. Amma Collapsed suddenly", continued the Nurse.

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Without wasting much time, the doctor rushed to bed no. 10. An old lady lay unconscious on the bed; her remaining heartbeats were supported by an artificial life-support system.
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The clock must have ticked 7:30 (evening). We stood at the Intensive Cardiac Care Unit (CCU) of AIIMS, New Delhi.
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Amma - an old lady - had suddenly fallen unconscious. A relative, who was with her, (maybe her own son) was directed by the nurse to head outside the CCU. The doctor and almost six nurses swung into immediate action. The Ventilator Monitor showed a red line passing parallel to a faint green; and the beep was too loud to make us understand the real emergency.
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As sweat trickled down the forehead of the relative, a nurse rushed towards the telephone to call help from outside; and within minutes specialists reached the CCU and were on the job. The doctor meticulously pumped her heart; maybe to revive a still being. Injections pierced through her while oxygen was already being propelled into the frail body.
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But, was she dead? Is death really so swift to arrive?
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I had absolutely no clue.
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I was an odd one out in the room as I sat on a chair in one corner of the CCU; observing that godly like relation between the doctors and the helpless patients.
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It had all started early, quite early in the morning. After my usual work on the computer and an enjoyable book reading; I slept that day at 4 in the morning. I must have just fallen asleep when two hands woke me up banging hard on my chest. “It isn't afternoon yet…” I confirmed myself half-asleep. Cursing the whole world I wanted to scream, “Then why the hell should I wake up?”
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I did anyways.
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Dad, who was all set but nervous, ordered me to get ready and escort him to a hospital. “Now?” I wondered with half closed eyes. One of his close friend’s mother had suddenly developed some breathing problem and was shifted to AIIMS at 3 am. I washed my face, put my clothes on and drove past empty roads to the nearby hospital; one of the biggest government hospitals in India.
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In 7 minutes; we landed at the Emergency ward of the Hospital. It wouldn't have taken that long if the parking crackpot guy didn't make a hue and cry to park the car in the farthest slot available in the hospital. Wonder, why he was so adamant!
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It was very uncommon. The Emergency ward, generally always abuzz with action; seemed dull today. No accident cases, no blood, no deaths and no cops. Actually, Government had recently opened a Trauma centre for such cases; that made this area comparatively less crowded. Normal (non-accident) emergency cases would land here pretty often. The patient was admitted temporarily at the Emergency Ward under observation; but with all the possible life support. A panel of doctors, nurses and attendants was at the job. We, expectedly, were asked to wait. And, we waited…for an hour and another…. and then some more. We were anxious, to know if it was just a minor problem or something to really be concerned about.
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Dad's friend was in bad shape and nervous (though it’s not exactly an appropriate word to describe him). He had no clue as to what was coming next. Neither did any of us. I tried to calm him down; haphazardly narrating him some theories about common respiratory problems. Astonishingly and thankfully, he believed them all.
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The bright sunlight soon lit the whole ground outside the hospital. The tea stall nearby was doing a brisk business. I bought three cups of eliachi tea and quickly gulped down my share.
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Dad requested me to use my available contacts of friends, to get his friend's mother admitted and to be looked after by the hospital. I was a little apprehensive about this. Wasn’t the hospital supposed to take care of the patients- ethically and otherwise?
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But my Dad’s request meant the world to me and ought to be fulfilled. I sent a SMS to a senior Resident Doctor friend at AIIMS. Though I've never met him but the Anti-Reservation campaigns had built our friendship. He called back immediately; and in an extremely polite voice asked how could he be of help. It was strange as I looked for an answer, because he did not owe anything to me and he was a doctor; but I was in a dire need of help (not for my own self).
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After understanding the case at length he asked me to relax; and promised that he would take care of everything.
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Dad was really elated. I chose the moment to rush home and catch up with some sleep. Unfortunately, the sleep ditched me today for a dusty storm followed with heavy rain. The window panes smashed the wall while the rainstorm forcibly drove into my room. I had to run for cover in my own den!
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Finally as I lay down again, and was just in middle of my sleep (if you really can afford to call it) my cell beeped. It was my dad's friend. Stressed, he begged me join him again and save his mom. My body began to tremble; an elderly had asked for my help.
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I often wonder, does my presence actually matter to people so much?
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In this case, I anyways was so young and without any medical knowledge.
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Trying not to think about anything else, I decided to rush back to same Emergency Ward where she had been for almost 12 hours now. The senior doctors had come for treatment and described her state as very critical and had also suspected some problem related to the heart. But, there was some strange conflict between two doctors over the heart theory.
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In a mere helpless mode and desperation, I called my doctor friend again to know the progress. He apologized for not being in touch due to his hectic schedule; but said he had passed on the word and proper admission would take place soon. On my request he called up the authorities again to push for an early admission to the ICU, preferably. The clock struck 6 pm; and after almost 15 hours in the hospital we managed to get her admitted. The process had begun. By 7pm we had successfully shifted her to the special Cardiac ICU on the 2nd floor of another red building.
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We must have been around 10 people (relatives and friends) with the patient. Surprisingly, the doctor called me (out of all those ten) inside the ICU along with another female to make the patient settled properly. I observed the entire shifting procedure. After a little while I got into a major argument with the security guard at the main gate when he didn't allow me to stand near the ward (a closed gate!!). I was adamant to stand till the shifting would begin. I would have never agreed; if my family members had not requested me to move away.
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Inside the ICU, it was as if a battle ground was in full swing. Scores of machines and medical equipments were located along the beds and on each one was a patient. Oxygen masks assisted them to maintain their respective breathing flow. I had also witnessed my grandparents suffer when I was a child, so all this seemed familiar, if not comfortable.
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Doctors, nurses and the support staff were constantly working, tending to one patient and rushing to another. They shared an enormous responsibility on their shoulders. The total number of the patients would have been around fifteen to twenty. .
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As the doctor made arrangements for our patient, I looked on. A new ventilator machine was attached and a few injections inserted. Like an astonished child, I tried to un-jumble the heartbeats lines on the monitor and my heart pounced even harder. It must have been a fully air conditioned hall but sweat seeped out of every pore of my body.
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It was then, yes very much at that moment, when I tried to shift my focus to something (if possible); that the Nurse had screamed and Amma had collapsed. I intently listened from someone else’s conversation that she was a lady in her eighties. I had seen her when she was brought into the ICU and was given a bed on the extreme right and we got the extreme left. Astonishingly, the wrinkled face and the dreary oxygen mask could not hide her child-like smile.
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As doctors put all possible effort to rescue Amma, I had begun to lose hope and must add that the machines, too had given up. One of our side relatives remarked that she stood no chance of survival now. I couldn't imagine that myself. I had seen death over life in front of me. I turned absolutely numb. I put my head down to rest on both of my hands. I wanted to cry in grief but was I even related to her?
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Or was I scared? Or was it just a shock that I was again supposed to come to terms to? I have no answer.
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I rushed out to get some medicine and catch some breadth. I returned in a few minutes and stood next to our patient's bed. After around 15 minutes, the ventilator monitor of Amma began to buzz with a strange sound and the lines criss-crossed. I was dumb-founded like the rest of my friends in the room. “How can Amma’s monitor beep, if she was dead?” I wondered. As the rest of us tried to figure out what had happened, the doctors and the medical staff took a sigh of relief. Amma had started breathing …. and was safe as of now.
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The moment was surreal. Like a dream… and if nothing else, it for sure appeared like a typical Bollywood masala movie (I did not say I was the male lead!). On a serious note, this was above everything else. My belief in the strange co-existence of life and death became stronger; the doctors are indeed next to God…
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Life…. Death…Life…. Scientific. Really?
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I couldn't wait to leave the hospital and drive back home. The thought continues to linger in my mind and as I ponder over it, I still have no answers.
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At home, I moved to my room and hit the bed as soon as I could. I had spent an exceptional day in the hospital witnessing the strange cycle of life and death change its course in front of my eyes.
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As though I had felt it…
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15 comments:

nerd said...

Surreal is the word! Everything about this piece is surreal, not just the happenings but even the way you wrote it. Good man, keep it up! You can write pretty well...

pooja said...

An extremely interesting piece... Its strange that at such a moment of despair and rush, u took the situation so creatively and decided to pen it down so well. good :)

kolohoi said...

Its so rare to find analytical abilities in people and i marvel at your ability to do that at such a young age!!A compelling piece man!!way to go! As a doctor i have always been on the other side but its nice to get a glimpse of what goes on in the minds of the sufferers!!thanks!!

Radhika said...

Wonderful! It was really heart stopping. You have described the simplest of things in such a beautiful way and so extensively at that! That is the mark of a true writer, I think - to transform our sometimes mundane life experiences into reflective literary pieces... Life and death are mysteries of this world, but you have made them seem even more real. Really nice writing!

Lalit said...

Nice post, Adi !!
Keep writing.....This is very therapeutic for folks like yourself who are always in search of their lost childhood.

Good Luck !!

shail said...

very nice:) like pooja said, at a moment of despair , u took the situation creatively..this is the essence of your grandfather's knowledge, of kash shaiv,"vismayo yoga bhumika"the stations of yoga constitute a wonder, and vice versa, the stations of wonder can be a great platform for the shaiva yogi..:)
i like also your allegory about having to run for cover in your own den..:)
keep it up.

geetika said...

new blog and new creativity...the piece reveals ur sensitive nature and at ur age it is an achievement
lookin forward to ur writings

INDU JALALI said...

A real incident depicted so well.I am overwhelmed and only want to say this.....Keep going as there is no looking back !
God bless

Pawan said...

Kya ho Aap Sir ...an activist or a philoshper ?

Rashneek said...

Aditya,

You have arrived boy...I am moved and touched both.
Notwithstanding your sensitivity your sentence formation and choice of words needs to be addressed.Similies have to be worked on.
Read more of contemporary fiction.
We are all in a state of achieveing perfection so at your age I would say...it is quite an achievement to write what you have written.I almost felt as if I was reading Dr.Christian Bernard.
Well Done...
You are making me proud...

Suru Pari said...

Your content is always good, but, this time, I marvel at your writing skill too.

Nabila Zehra Zaidi said...

Its called Life!

Lets not get all scientific about the beauties and miracles of the Supreme one! Its completely divine, in my opinion. And it is experiences like these that make us better human beings.

You are lucky to have experienced something as wonderful as this. Nicely expressed and narrated too.

Cheers!

romika said...

hey dude,well written indeed,its kind of encouraging to feel that in todays times when doctors really do not enjoy the same respect as years ago, i felt wonderful to read such thoughts and that yes, we as doctors have a totally different though not really enviable position in the world!consumer protection act and all have tried to criminalise medicine but deep down the sacrifices doctors make ...sometimes frustratingly...are to be admired and respected..i salute my fraternity.....thanks

Amit Raina said...

wounderfull...

Aditya Aima said...

good