Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are Your Bags Packed?

I told Sam he was dying one quiet morning as he lay in the over sized hospital bed. His girlfriend sat by his side. Her glassy eyes contrasted the steel blueish gray of his. The bone marrow transplant failed and the white count was increasing. He had been through both chemo and radiation in the past. The cancer cells were stubborn, much like the middle aged body they lived in.

Sam stared at me with the same mocking look that I had seen so many times in the office. It was as if I had just told him that he had gout or pneumonia. I could hear the unspoken scoff and visualize the mischievous grin that had yet to form on his face.

The phone started to ring on the table. Sam ignored it. A few seconds later his mobile began to buzz. He snatched it up and looked at the screen. He answered briefly and told the caller he would have to get back to them later.

His movements were steady and purposeful. This was just another day, another set back, another hurdle to vault over. His gaze met mine. He paused for a moment before speaking.

But Doc, I don't have time for this right now!

He then burst into a loud spasm of laughter. His girlfriend couldn't turn back the smile that fought through her tears.


Sam went home with hospice. I stopped most of his medications but continued pills for pain, a steroid, and antibiotics for his pneumonia. When I waved goodbye from the hospital room door, I had a feeling it would be the last time I would see him.

Weeks passed and I heard nothing. I started to worry that he died, and no one told me. When I had a few spare moments between patients, I perused his contact information and started to work down the list of phone numbers.

There was no answer at home. His mobile went to voice mail on the first ring. Eventually I tracked down his son at work. I could here his father's laughter in his voice.

Dad. He's in New Orleans. He went to Mardi Gras!

Apparently he was feeling better. Later that day I talked to his hospice nurse. Sam gained weight and stopped the antibiotics. He had been on quite a few trips since being discharged form the hospital. He was eating out, going to the opera, and living it up.

I was flabbergasted. Surely his white count must have been in the hundreds by now.


I tried to reach Sam various over the next few weeks. Usually I got his voice mail, and didn't want to bother him with a message. It was only the arrival of his death certificate that notified me of his passing.

I called his girlfriend on her mobile. Sam died alone in the middle of the night. She came to check on him the next morning, and found him lying in bed peacefully. When she leaned over to call the hospice nurse, she noticed a single suitcase resting quietly on the floor. She opened it to find that Sam had packed his favorite suite, lucky shirt, and a brand new pair of shoes. This was odd since they hadn't planned any more trips.

As I hung up the phone I realized that Sam was sending us all a message. To him, death was just another adventure.

And he wanted to make sure his bag was packed.

No comments: