Saturday, May 21, 2016

Without an End, There Can Be No Peace


The early morning sunlight filters through the ward windows. I got the phone call even before finishing morning rounds. Mr X, our long-suffering elderly patient, had finally gone to the end of his pain.

The nurse at the counter hands me the file. "The night duty doctor called the family. The sons are on their way."

I look over at Mr X's bed. Sitting next to him, still holding his hand, was an elderly lady.

"That's his wife?" I asked the nurse. 

"His ex-wife. She hasn't left his side all night."

I walk over to the bed. The old lady was still staring at his face. Trying to approach as quietly as possible, I noticed that through streaks of dried tears on her face, she was smiling.

"Madam, I'm very sorry for your loss. He was a fighter, but he was in a lot of pain."

She turned to me, the smile still on her face. "No. Don't apologise. I'm happy he's free of all his troubles." She pulled out a tissue and wiped her eyes. "Without an end, there can be no peace."

"I'm sorry?" 

"Without an end, there can be no peace." She looked up at me, eyes now dry. "It was one of his favourite sayings. He used to tell me that all the time, even when we were married." She put his hand down gently on the bed, patting it as she did so. "In fact, it's what he told me when we finally got divorced as well."

"I see." I shifted uncomfortably in my shoes. What do you say to something like that? "It's nice of you to still come visit him."

This made her laugh softly. "No, we didn't hate each other. He was still the love of my life, and I was his. We just decided it wouldn't work. And after years of quiet suffering, we decided to go our separate ways." A single tear rolled down her cheek again. "He just always believed that sometimes things needed to end, finally and properly, before people could be at peace again."

She looked at his face. His eyes were closed. His expression was almost peaceful. Almost as if he was relieved.

I started to move away. "I'll be back once your sons are here, to settle the paperwork."

"Remember that, doctor." She looked up at me again. "It's good advice."

I found myself nodding as I walked away, leaving her to her final goodbye.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: Mother's Day



In the middle of a busy Monday clinic after Mother's Day:

"Doc, can I have the day off today?"

"Oh. Why? Are you unwell?"


"Yes, I've been really tired lately. I think I just need a rest."

"I see. Any idea why you're feeling so down?"

"...I'm a mother of two. Do I need any other reason?!"


I gave her the day off.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: A Sign of the Times

In the middle of a busy Monday clinic:

"And how can I help you and your little boy today, madam?"

"Doctor, I've come with a nagging question about his developmental milestones. I've tried asking around but no one seems to know. Even my parents said they didn't use to worry about all this stuff while raising me."

"Have you checked the Personal Child Health Record?  A lot of the milestones are in there--"

"No no, it's not about when he'll walk or talk. That's all boring stuff. This is worse. I haven't been able to find answers anywhere."

"Worse? Oh dear. What are you concerned about?"

The mother leans in close and drops her voice.

"What age do I allow him to use an iPad?"



Monday, April 25, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: Ask Siri


"Boss, that was amazing. How did you figure out that patient had an embolus? That was a really hard call to make. He's alive because of you."

"Well, sometimes in life, you have to make the hard decisions. You just learn to go for it."

"I see. How did you decide on this case though?"

"Oh, this time I just asked Siri."

Monday, April 18, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: A Blood-y Joke


We've all had them - patients who come in for a low blood count (low haemoglobin), get blood transfused intravenously into their bodies, and then the next day the phlebotomist shows up to measure their new blood count:

Phlebotomist: I'm going to need to take your blood again today.

Patient: But...but I just got some blood yesterday.

Phlebotomist: Well, you didn't think you'd get to keep it, did you?


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Mother's Last Lesson


It is past midnight on the ward. The silence is punctuated by the occasional beeping of infusion pumps and the soft sobbing of relatives. I have just signed the death certificate of an elderly lady.

I offer my condolences to her eldest son and walk away. As I fiddle with paperwork at the nearby counter, I hear the youngest son's voice, cracked and hoarse from crying.

"I can't believe she's gone."

"I know." The eldest brother's voice, also hoarse. "She's at peace now."

"I-- I should have spent more time with her--"

"She loved you. She didn't blame you. Ever."

"She was my whole world. I just liked to pretend she wasn't--"

"She knew. Always."

The younger brother lowers his head and sobs silently into his arm. I try to focus on signing tags. A few seconds pass. I hear the younger son's voice again.

"I...I don't know how to go on."

"We must."

"Easy for you to say. How do I-- how do I live-- " His voice cracks.

"Because we are her sons. And that is how she raised us." The eldest son straightened up. "If she didn't teach us to be strong enough to live without her - she would have failed as a mother."

The eldest son reaches out and squeezes his brother's arm gently.

"Yes. Okay." The younger son wipes his eyes.

I gather up my paperwork and leave the counter. As I walk away, I hear the younger brother's voice one last time.

"Thank you, brother."

"Thank her." The eldest son's voice sounded steely now. "For making us strong."

Monday, April 11, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: Starbucks

In the middle of a long line at the hospital Starbucks:

"Where's the house officer? Why isn't he taking our orders?"

"He got called up to the ward for a code blue, boss."


"Code blue? Before my morning Starbucks? How rude!"








Monday, April 04, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: April Fool


In the middle of clinic on April 1st:

"And how are you feeling today, sir?"

"Doctor, I feel terrible. I've been really depressed lately. In fact, I think...I think I may shoot myself."

"What! That's terrible. How long have you been feeling like this?"

"APRIL FOOL! Bahahaha no, I'm feeling fine. I just came to get some flu meds."


Sometimes I think I may shoot myself.

Photo credit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: Marriage

"Doctor, I think I'm depressed."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Any idea why?

"Yes! My son's just told me he doesn't want to get married."


"Oh. Well it's common to feel a bit down due to family disagreements. Shall I arrange for you to see a counsellor?"

"Me?! I don't need a counsellor. My son needs a counsellor!"

"Why?"


"Because he doesn't want to get married! He's obviously crazy. Who wouldn't want to get married?!"




Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Heard Around The Hospital: Solar Eclipse


Overheard in a busy clinic:

Patient: Doctor, my friend burned his eye staring directly at the solar eclipse. Should I ask him to come see you?

Doctor: No. There is no treatment for solar retinopathy (sun damage to the retina --Editor).

Patient: Why?

Doctor: Because there's no treatment for stupidity.

Ouch.