Aida Zabidi
It was my first overnight shift.

It was my first on call.

I still remember the nurses coming up to me, telling me that the auntie in Bed 8 didn't seem quite right, asking me to take a look.

Bed 6 was Auntie Sim, my patient. She had come in with a stroke two nights ago and had deteriorated rapidly while in hospital. The CT scan showed a massive bleed involving the whole of her right brain. She would no longer be able to walk, or talk. She would be bedbound, surviving on the home care that she would have to have.

I had watched while her haggard grandson waited patiently by her bedside. He was ever so polite to us doctors, and he would stay by her side just talking to her as she slept her dreamless sleep until visiting hours were over and he had to leave.

I remember Auntie Sim.

I went over to Bed 6, and I couldn't feel a pulse.

There's a certain moment in your life when you have to make those decisions, and I remember being it seemed like I was frozen in time.

It seemed like everything was so calm.

We hooked her up to the cardiac monitor and it showed no heartbeat. Asystole, we call it.

I vaguely remember telling the nurses to call my medical officer.

I remember getting on the bed and starting CPR while the nurses rolled in the resuscitation trolley.
She was so thin that her ribs cracked that first pump into her chest, and I swear I could feel her heart right underneath my hands. I had to keep going. I could feel the rhythm that I was supposed to follow, tried to think about the next step. I was relieved when my medical officer came and took over, relieved that I did not have to go through the process of remembering the steps to take.

We did CPR, we intubated, we suctioned.

It was my first time doing CPR.

I don't know why I cried.

I had to hold back the tears.

Death is something that happens a lot in my line of work, and that will continue to happen a lot. I hope it is never something that I will become blase about, that it is something that I pray that I will hold on to. That the very act of CPR will continue to have that meaning, to extend someone's life as God sees fit, and not just another routine thing that happens on the job.

Auntie Sim passed away at 6.20 that morning. My medical officer and specialist had the difficult task of talking to the family and certifying the death.

It is always hard to go back to work, feeling like it is something you could share but that others would never understand, even those who have been through the same thing.

I am certain that many of my colleagues felt the same way the first time they had to unsuccessfully do a resuscitation, but that is the nature of the job.

We keep calm, we keep our game faces on, and we go on with our job as if another death had no impact on us, on our souls - because there are others who death will claim if we do not take care.

The impact is there, in my heart, in my soul.

I remember every moment. Remember the tears I held back. Remember the feel of her ribs breaking. Remember the look of her face, knowing that God had called her back. Remember the feeling of futility, of failing, of wondering if there could have been anything that I could have done differently. Remember the nurses and their quick responses, the calm of my medical officer as she proceeded to intubate. Remember the family rushing in, to say their last goodbyes.

It was like being in the eye of the storm, only the storm was in my heart.

Thank you Auntie Sim.

You will be remembered.
3 Responses
  1. ince Says:

    It's so heartbreaking when you know there's nothing more you can do to help the situation but yet you want to keep going hoping a miracle would happen. I have yet to experience such situation but I can tell from your story that the moment I did, it's not going to be easy.

    You did great back there. And I'm sure Auntie Sim was very happy when she passed, cause she had you to look after her in her last moments.

  2. You're ever so strong to face deaths before your eyes. I hope you keep the momentum going and not lose the faith you've kept up till now.

    I honestly don't know what would I ever do if I were in your situation. :'(

    Rest In Peace, Auntie Sim.

  3. when faced with death, we will realize how helpless we are in many ways..but it's not a bad thing ;) it will definitely make you a better person and a humble servant of the Great Creator ;)

    hang in there!

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