“So how many people died tonight champ?”
“Four or five; I can’t recall.”
“That’s a lot.”
“That’s a few, I heard there are days they’d reach eight to 10 here, in a single shift.”
Patients brought in late, lost to follow up, that sort. It’s 3am, and I’m already done with my ER timeframe.
As another intern had taken my place one hour prior, I decided to stay since more hands are needed. It’s fun, toxic, yes, but fun as hell. When all intubated patients had medical eyes on, I snuck outside. Just a few steps was the fishball vendor. And she’d let me sit in the driver’s seat as we converse on random happenings, in the wee hours.
As a newbie I have yet to experience a lot of toxic shifts. But this night could be one listed for the books.
Nine hours prior I was touring some juniors on their first ER experience. Told them the ins and outs, though I’m no expert with Emergency medicine. Having an initiative and the willingness to offer a lending hand where it is needed are musts.
There was a black butterfly fluttering about.
“Money,” says a third year.
In a scientific-medical environment, we Filipinos still poke fun at superstition; it’s a cultural thing.
Money, yes, but there’s a bigger implication.
“Death, they smell of dying flesh,” I said.
The third-years let out a reluctant, nervous giggle.
I’m making them a little bit uncomfortable. There’s someone coughing up blood and someone gasping for air just left and right of our position and my words don’t bring security.
But that is the real world, discomfort and pain.
The world was made from chaos.
Continents from tectonic stress, the organisms who survived are those who suffered the most and continued to live. We generally know which part of our bodies are sick because it points that out with pain.
It is the universal constant that keeps us moving forward.
Did a resident get cheated on cause her partner found a squeeze outside the hospital?
The pain will help her decide to let go of that wuss of a boyfriend. An intern in west tower got admitted in that same building due to peritonsillar abscess and will be aspirated, no anesthesia, cause its basically neutralized anyway… painful but its how it’s managed.
Pain. A necessity.
So I was prepping up the suction machine trying to explain what im doing as much as I could, suddenly there was the all familiar bell.
DING DING DING DING DING DING
A person is on the verge of apparent death and in need of rescuscitation
DING DING DING DING DING DING
All available hands report, gloves in, get materials start the CPR.
And for a moment you lose yourself in a rush of adrenaline and cortisol and all the other chemicals that rev you up rivaling the effects of illegal drugs.
But no matter how much the effort there will always be the anticlimax where the rush stops.
And the time of death is announced. Rarely there would be gratitude, a crying daughter thanks you for the effort, something you honestly feel is undeserved.
Always there’s anger, denial, and the most important emotion of all, the emotion that contrasts our security, thus making us feel better after it.
“Sabi ko hintayin mo si ate. Hindi pa siya nakabalik. Sabi mo lalaban ka.”
And more often then not, they’d blame the doctors as if they never responded.
Shouts, and heightened emotions, just like in television.
“[Somebody] was [arrested] by the police. I saw him dragged outside in handcuffs.”
“Oo, gani man mam (That’s true, ma’am). He was causing a scene.”
Took a bite off my tempura and swallowed with a satisfied gulp.
That glorious taste.
That is the thing about enduring a lot of pain, the simple things suddenly become much more meaningful, and street food becomes gourmet to someone who survived prolonged hunger.
While those who are not accustomed to pain will hardly be satisfied by the constant barrage of seasonings and high class dips.
Pain, suffering, hardships. These teach us appreciation when were suddenly free from it, and prepare us to endure more which is forever constant.
I took another bite.
And when I suddenly have the urge to decide to call it a day here and return to the wards, maybe take the hour off…
DING DING DING DING DING DING DING
I dropped my tempura and ran inside…