Quiet spot at the Philippine General Hospital.
The month of May has passed me by. While I charted my patients at the ward; my brother Ralph turned 30, my parents came over to visit, a friend got married, and the world moved on. I suppose I have finally adjusted to the Life in Training, a tough road that began with the acceptance that I cannot do it alone. Apart from God's strength, I am nothing.
He cried like a baby, and maybe that was what he was, in his mother's eyes.
With her eyes closed, she looked like she was sleeping. On her arms and limbs were multiple bruises; they started appearing just six months ago, like random pencil blots on a skin canvas. Then came the pallor, unexplained weakness, and a feeling that something wrong was going on. She couldn't put a name into it until months after her descent into being bedridden, just around the time when her doctor, after seeing her lab tests, told her she had leukemia.
The boy was 14, but he had the eyes of an old man who has been through a lot. Her cared for her mother, brought her to the hospital for intermittent sessions of blood transfusions, put up with the long queues at the Blood Bank, and even pleaded with the Social Services staff to give her free antibiotics.
On Mother's Day, he was still a boy—soft wisps of hair just starting to grow on his arm pits, his voice barely beginning to crack—but already mother-less. Her mother's blood infection was so profound that even the strongest antibiotics were almost powerless against the battle. Her platelet count was too low as to graciously permit spontaneous bleeding to happen anywhere in her body: her eyes, her lungs, her brain. That was what killed her: a ruptured vessel, perhaps, that decided to snap in her cerebrum. She was gone in minutes.
As he grieved and sobbed and wished that this was all but a dream, IV lines were still attached to her mother's veins, made fragile by chemotherapy. Medications meant to raise her blood pressure to the bare acceptable minimum were still flowing in futility.
It was just another day at the hospital. He had to bring her body home. He had been through a lot, surely he could handle her mother's funeral, too.
BATANGAS is the farthest we've all been to, my batchmates and I, since residency had begun. This weekend we had our first outing at a lakeside resort, allegedly made famous by the fact that it was the venue of a celebrity's wedding—the celebrity's name escapes me. All in all, it was a welcome respite from the endless charting and patient interaction and code-ing and social work-ing—not that we minded doing those things. It's just that, at some point, we've all gotten beaten down.