What was that patient’s name again? I sit here in the cafeteria, and a memory of him came by. I was still working in KL back then. We had a patient who was in critical condition. I never met him face to face, but I gradually felt close to him as time passed by. In fact, everyone in the pharmacy department felt the same way. We felt close to him, like he was someone dear to us. But we never saw his face. All we know about him came through his med sheets, sent to us at irregular times. He needed stats quite often, up to one point the nurses just give us a ring and the meds will be delivered. The papers and formalities can come later, we all agreed instinctively without discussion.
That uncle spent three months in our hospital. His file was the bulkiest. We even had special orders just for him, meds that are normally not in stock. Some are even meds never in our inventory. Kak Nor, the store clerk had special tabs on this particular patient, opened up numerous new entries in the system for the never-before-seen meds, and was always eager to assist in procuring anything needed, even in the middle of the night when she’s already gone to bed. The department as a whole had a special relationship with him through the med charts, it almost seem magical how one man could touch the hearts of people used to working without lingering attachments toward patients.
I remember the first time a tray full of untouched meds came in with a TTA slip and a note on it written ‘pt exp’. I remember how I was saddened by it. I also remember how I gradually became so used to it, I was desensitized. I remember how I forgot the fact that the flame of one’s life has just been snuffed out with every ‘pt exp’ note we get. And I was once again reminded that each life is so precious when this uncle came.
About a month or so after admission, billing called in and ordered us to halt all dispensing to this uncle as his insurance had just topped its limit. We were enraged by that, but can’t do anything about it. His bill was a staggering amount even we could only dream to attain in one life. He must’ve been a burden to that company. That must’ve been the reason they cut him off. Fucking capitalists! But then came news that his son came and claim all bills his responsibility. Just do whatever it takes to make father better, or so we heard from the nurses attending him and the billing kids who billed him. We were relieved to hear such news.
This uncle had numerous incidents of emergencies, but he always came back into the light of the living. Then one day he got sepsis, and everything turned to gray. But he came back from it. Perhaps his coming backs made us all think that he will get better. He was getting better by his final days.
It’s still vivid how I came in for work that morning. I noticed that his file was not there. Was he discharged, I asked the night shift girl who’s still around. She looked straight into my eyes, all teary eyed herself, and delivered the news. I was reminded by him, or rather, his death, that every death is sorrowful.
And now I question myself. What did his family thought of his passing? Were they relieved? Were they sad? Were they angry or frustrated? I may never know the answers to those questions, but I may have my own answers soon. Did they ever thought of euthanasia like I did? Or did they cling unto hope so desperately, they drown themselves and then learn to breathe underwater?
I don’t know.
26th December 2016