Saturday, 21 February 2009

death's door

In Malawi, I experienced my fair share of death. Little kids with raging fevers, severe anaemia, cerebral malaira, meningitis. It hit me hard. It was accepted all too readily by families, medical practitioners, doctors. Back home, death hits home in a different way. Usually, elderly patients, with heart failure, a pneumonia that was just too much on top of a multitude of other morbidities or a metastatic cancer. But still I find it all too consuming.

Then, there's the gastrointestinal ward. Many patients are chronic alcoholics some known for years others just starting out. One women, mid 30's, going on 60, well known, with decompensated liver failure has been admitted to HDU twice in a matter of weeks but both times has pulled through and is now sitting up on the edge of her bed wondering why her legs are wobbly and her hands have got the shakes. After each previous admission she has gone back to the bottle. Who knows if this time will be different?

Just along the corridor a young man in his late 20's has been admitted again, decompensated liver failure too but this man is not an alcoholic, he has cancer, a nasty rare liver tumour which has spread and is taking over his lungs too. As he is noticably weaker by the day, I can't help think what a pile of cards to be dealt. But he speaks of how much he's been able to do while the cancer was in remission, finish his degree, get a job, buy a house, a nice car and how he is glad to have been given that chance. But what can you say as he prepares for his oncology appointment to find out the results of the lastest scan and says, "I'd just like to know how long I've got, I mean, is it weeks or months or days, I'd just like an estimate." Somehow, he asks this, not pitifully but just as if he'd like to know whether Scotland will win the six nations. Sometimes certain patients just strike a cord and powerless to do anything, I say bye and thank him for speaking to me.

Everyone deserves the best care possible but some people will always seem more deserving than others. Who knows whats in store?
Listening to: Kings of Leon - Use Somebody
via FoxyTunes

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