In the twenty years I have been a doctor, I've never regretted it. Having the power in your hands to save someone's life is what I live for. Patients come to me on their death bed, confessing their love to the spouse standing next to them, thinking they are on their way to judgement day.
No patient assigned to me has died. Ever. I take pride in that and I receive the highest grade of satisfaction whenever my patient is back on their feet.
My wife and children do not understand why I can't be home all of the time. My wife, Stephanie, has always hated my working hours but loved the money that supported her many addictions. Sometimes I wish I could scale back; sometimes I wish I could have family outings in the park, playing a good ol' game of football with my boys. But, the hospital needs me. I'd rather save someone's life than satisfy my own needs. Even if it sacrifices my relationship with my family.
Today, I'm working in the burn unit. The unit most doctors try to avoid. I walked passed many open doors on my way to the assigned patient, peering in to see the scorched faces of children and adults. I shined them all a smile, attempting to brighten up their day before ending my walk at room 250.
Quickly, I realized the severity of the case once I laid eyes upon him. The patient lying in the bed was covered from head to toe in bandages. I approached the patient, staring intently upon the countless tubes connected to him.
"Hi, I'm Dr. Edenburg," I said.
The heart rate monitor continued to sound as I checked the oxygen tank next to the bed. I knew he wasn't going to respond. He was brought in hours ago and has been in a coma since, but it's always important to socialize with patients who are comatose. Though they cannot speak, they can hear everything.
"We are going to get you better, okay? You have my word," I said as a nurse walked into the room.
She changed the IV bag before staring at the heart rate monitor.
"He's been steady ever since I got here," I said.
She seemed to nod her head before glancing at the patient.
"Please, get better," she said before walking out of the room.
I smiled at her gesture, though she wasn't there to witness it. It wasn't encouraged to get attached to patients, but attaching yourself to someone who you are around for a substantial amount of time is human nature.
"I'll check on you every few hours but that lovely nurse will be here for you more frequently. Don't worry, I think she's single," I said smiling.
I took a look one last time at the heart rate monitor before disappearing into the hall. Instinctively, my stomach began to growl. Being that it was well past my lunch break, it had every reason to be upset with me. So I hurried to the cafeteria.
As usual, it was jam packed with staff members but near the television seemed to be unusually crowded. Though my stomach was gurgling for food, I walked towards the crowd.
"What's going on?" I questioned.
Everyone sat still, listening in on the reports of a tragic car crash on the highway.
"Police say the car is being inspected for foul play after the man driving the car crashed into several vehicles before igniting, causing at least a dozen injuries and several fatalities," the reporter said.
I stood speechless as I listened in on the nurses conversations.
"Room 250," I heard someone whisper.
Quickly, I concluded the patient in room 250 was the man in the report. It was a bit saddening. He hadn't been some idiot that lit a cigarette before falling asleep or some maniac that enjoyed playing with explosive fireworks. He was a man trying to go to work; feed his family.
After hearing such a somber report, I couldn't help but to lose my appetite. So, instead of taking lunch, I decided to go home and be with my family. My car had been in the shop for a couple of days, so I walked the few miles home.
The beauty of the scenery was uplifting. After a day in the burn unit, I needed a sense of cheer to counteract the supreme desolation within me. And, with every stride towards my house, I felt a little less bogged down. But, once I made it home, it became clear that my day would remain in the dirt as I saw the same vehicle I had seen many times before whenever I decided to come home early from work.
I stared fixedly at the Ford pickup truck in my driveway with rage within my heart. I knew my wife had stepped out on me years ago. All of those days at work without even a call from me to ask how she was doing was enough to send her over the edge. I understood it, but I didn't want to admit that my wife had been screwing some guy behind my back... in my home. All of this could have been avoided. If only I came home more. If only I talked to her, held her, and comforted her. But, I didn't. I didn't have the time to even say hi to her. I left her with three teenaged boys and expected her not to fall apart with stress. This was my fault, and I didn't want to further disappoint her with my presence.
So I turned around and headed back towards the hospital. As a man, I didn't want to walk away. I wanted to storm in there, snatch that guy up by his collar, and beat the living shit out of him. But, what would that solve? Nothing.
So, I walked back into the hospital with a sense of betrayal eating away at my heart. My feet seemed to grow heavier with every stride and it became harder to breathe with every step. At the end of the hall, I could see nurses running towards the burn unit. I followed them, though my pace was slower than usual.
I ended my run at the doorway of room 250. Nurses panicked as they tried to revive the bandaged man laying on the bed. The smell of blood permeated throughout the room as they tore away the bandages wrapped around his chest. After three failed attempts of resuscitation, the nurses backed away from the body. A few began crying immediately as they stared at the pulse-less corpse. I stepped in, attempting to console the crying nurses but something strange happened.
My hand glided through her as I tried to pat her shoulder. Again, I tried, believing I was hallucinating but my hand seemed to evaporate with every attempt at contact.
"You will be missed, Dr. Edenburg," a nurse said.
Quickly, denial creeped up my spine as I backed out of room 250 and into the hallway. Around me, scorched faces I had passed by earlier surrounded me.
"Don't be afraid," one muttered.
Another stretched their arms out to me before whispering, "Come with us."
I fell to the ground, my eyes set upon the door of room 250. Today, I lost my first patient: Dr. Timothy Edenburg.
Written by GreyOwl