As a physician working in acute care I’ve seen many things that few others have and which are perhaps beyond a lay person’s imagination. Among these are few encounters that are etched in my mind. They have moved me, exposed me to my vulnerability and changed me permanently. I’ve learned so much.
I share a few of those encounters in my upcoming book ‘Under the Shade of The Banyan Tree’. Here’s one of them :–
Yesterday I met a young man in the hospital. I had seen him before, maybe a few months ago. He had an odd name, a name you don’t expect to forget easily, but I did somehow. I must be getting old, I think.
His name didn’t strike a bell when the ER doc told me about him, but I remembered his face.
“He’s a nice guy;” the ER doc said. “He really is,” he reiterated.
That had me curious. We don’t speak like that often. We physicians are a cynical bunch, you see.
I recognized the young man right away, and it was a shock. He didn’t look at all like he had just a month or so ago. He had shrunk. Literally deflated by several pounds and he had grown a beard to disguise his gaunt face.
He had been a young man in the prime of his life. Big, muscular, strong. Still hopeful and smiling, even after a heart attack at thirty-two. Still hopeful and smoking.
He was still smiling now, but it was a different kind of smile. There was diffidence in it and fear and uncertainty. There was also hope, but it was fading fast. It’s astounding how clearly I perceived it without him having to say a word.
Instinctively, I clasped his hand. It was perhaps the most spontaneous thing I’ve done. It was the best way I could express myself other than crying for this man’s life. That’d be a terrible thing to do.
He had given up smoking after the surgery. Ever since they told him he had cancer. We talked some more. I explained why he was here. The spots in his lungs could be pneumonia.
“Maybe they are,” he said and smiled. He’d become adept at dealing with bad news. He had aged beyond his years in such a short time. My heart wept for him.