Friday, December 30, 2016

A Reconstructer Of Disassembled Parts

To say that William hardly thought about hospice would be an inaccuracy. He contemplated it, from time to time, during his thirty year tenure as a trauma surgeon.  Usually for fleeting moments before dodging the conversation or deferring to one of his more junior colleagues.  Surgeons didn't give up so easily, he reasoned.  He fancied himself a fixer, a reconstructer of disassembled parts.

Mostly, that is what was expected of him.  His patients didn't come because of cancer or chronic illness.  They came after tragedy.  Unwillingly.   Bodies sprawled on metal tables with insides amiss.  And he put them back together.  There was no time for a prolonged conversation of whether the parts should remain disjointed.

It was easier to look at his patients as parts and pieces.  Easier to round in the ICU and figure out how the puzzle fit together again, or even how the motif in the far right corner connected to the shadow in the lower left.  Complex systems no doubt.  But admittedly there was a refusal, subconscious or not, to discern the forest from the trees.

Thus, the irony was not lost on William, when his oncologist shrugged and suggested hospice care.  This was only after all options had been exhausted.  His body could only withstand so much surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.  Upon hearing the words, William flopped onto the examining room table and thought of the many conversations he had excused himself from over the years.

His oncologist was not much better. After dropping the H word, he handed him a card with a name and phone number, and left the room.  William held onto card for a few days stuck in the pre-contemplation stage.   He then made the call.

Hospice was tolerable.  William's body began to erode under the enormous burden of cancer.  His eyes sunk, and the skin hung from his atrophied skeleton.  The nurses and CNA's were pleasant and tended to his ever increasing physical needs.  The morphine controlled his pain.

William had already made peace with leaving this world.  There was only one problem.   He had expected to die months ago.  Yet, he was still here.

He prayed to a God that he only partially believed in.  He begged and pleaded.  Take me.  Take me.

Yet he woke up every morning, opened his eyes, and loathed that he was still here.

He had long ago stopped living, and now was solely waiting to die.  Death taunted him at times, holding the prize within reach.  A storm of lethargy would be followed by a an ocean of dyspnea.  With nightfall came peace and quiet.  The next morning all would be tranquil once again.

Sometimes William dreamt that death was seeking revenge for all those lives he had snatched back from the abyss during his surgical career.  All those souls whose path and destiny were interrupted by his mechanical hands.  

He fantasized that after a horrible car accident he was rushed to the emergency room with his aorta transected and the pompous surgeon stood over his body, and licked his lips at the chance of letting the scalpel have free range.  As William begged and pleaded, the surgeon removed his mask and revealed his true identity.  And he recognized his own facade and knew that he would be taken to the operating room.

It was then that William came to terms with a reality that had escaped him his whole clinical career.

Like birth, death is just a natural life event.

A natural event, that somehow kept alluding him.

1 comment:

Anne Williams said...

Once again, thank you, Jordan. Please accept my appreciation for all you have shared in 2016,
I will be looking forward to your heartwarming and thought provoking emails in 2017.
Love and best wishes from across the sea.
Patricia