A gentle subtle smile lit up his tired face as he stood gazing rapturously into the horizon watching the sun rise slowly to herald the dawn of a brand new day. This, for Etim, is one of the defining moments in his decade-long medical career. When all the pain and exhaustion of not only burning the midnight candle but also of endless hours in the surgical theatre washes out of you; when you stand to see the patient whose life you battled to save finally regain consciousness; when your patient’s eyes flutter and gradually open like the rising of the sun.
You are reborn!
In that moment there is no fear of death or of life! It’s a moment of purity, innocence and divinity! There is no anger, no sorrow, no history, and no future. There’s only the moment!
Etim lives for such moments; for the joy is exceedingly and overwhelmingly inexplicable. It is awesome. Simply Epic!
The moment you saved a life! That moment time stops! It ceases to exist.
The experience is phenomenal and absolutely unforgettable. And it is better experienced than narrated. The moment you grasp a life out of death’s strong clutches. The sole reason Etim went to medical school. It’s the biggest ‘why’ he decided years ago to become a medical doctor.
For some such moment fills not their hearts but their heads. They glow in pride. Etim was glowing quite alright but he was nowhere near pride. The experience humbles him. The moment drives him not just to his knees but flat on his belly with face bowed before his boss – The King. The Almighty! The source and origin of life!
Tears gathered in his eyes, trickled down his cheeks and left wet patches on his sparkling white TM shirt. Etim lifted his hands towards heavens before dropping to his knees. He fell down flat as his mind vividly replayed the incident.
It was the seventieth hour after the laborious surgery on Andre Selemane. And his coma scale was still at 4 out of the total of 15. It was neither improving nor deteriorating. And even though his vital signs – blood pressure, pulse rate and temperature – were stable Dr. Etim remained apprehensive. The coma scale was the main prognostic indicator when it comes to head injuries.
Dr. Etim took the patient’s chart and flipped through the latest entries, nodding his satisfaction at the adequate nursing care being given in the makeshift ICU he’d set up. He returned the chart and went to the nurses’ station. Nurse Sylvia, the staff nurse on afternoon shift, promptly handed him a case file.
Etim scribbled for a while, making a mental note of his clinical findings. He then lurched to his feet and returned the file smiling at the tall plump nurse looking beautiful in her sparkling white uniform. “Bom trabalho!” he said in Portuguese, “Well done!” and exited the ICU.
As he padded back to his consulting room Etim began to brainstorm. He racked his brain, trying to remember what else is needed in the management of their critical patient. But he came up with nothing! Heaving a sigh of relief he fetched his office keys from his breast-pocket and unlocked the door. “As it is we are doing everything necessary for the patient”, he thought smilingly and muttered a silent prayer for the patient under his breath as he stepped into the carpeted floor of his small but cozy consulting room.
Just then he heard a distant female voice beckoning, “Doctor!”
Etim ducked his head around the door and saw one of the orderlies dashing towards his office. “It’s got to be an emergency,” he thought and hurriedly stepped back to the corridor holding his door ajar. “Yes, Alfreda, what is it?”
“ICU,” Alfreda murmured breathlessly.
Suddenly, Dr. Etim felt his stomach sank; his heart thumped wildly; his breathing quickened; and his face donned a perturbed look. “I-C-U?” he stuttered pensively, a myriad of thoughts bounced around in his mind.
Still gasping for breath, Alfreda simply nodded.
Dr. Etim doubled back and headed for the ICU, forgetting, in his haste, to lock his office. He took quick hurried steps towards the north-wing of the County Hospital, restraining from breaking into a run. Alfreda followed from a considerable distance still panting to catch her breath.
Dr. Etim’s pulse quickened as he made for the ICU. There was only one patient in the ICU. His mind joggled all possibilities. He couldn’t get much from Alfreda. So he assumed the worst must have happened. “They need him to certify the patient, he thought, gulping back the tears that had welled up in his eyes as his thoughts drifted to Dr. Tonye Martins.
This is one loss she might not be capable of bearing. She might never get over it. Not after all she’d done to save his life. And even though she would not admit it, he knew her well enough to know that she is crazy about Andre despite the fact that he’s such a jerk-ass. Dr. Tee, as Dr. Etim calls his protégée, is in love with her fiancé, Andre Selemane. She loved the cheating bastard enough to donate her precious rare blood-type to keep him alive. How would he tell her that all their effort was in vain? How?
Dr. Etim was still in deep thought when he turned into the corridor that led to the ICU. A cluster of hospital staffs gathered at the lobby of the ICU hove into his view. They were talking in hushed tones trying unsuccessfully not to disrupt the tranquility.
However, as Dr. Etim approached the room fell silent. He nudged his way through the pile and was greeted with rapturous gazes and smiles. Suddenly, Nurse Sylvia appeared from amongst them. She seemed dumbfounded with excitement as she gestured towards the doorway.
“He’s awake!” She let out finally her face glowing.
“Awake!” Dr. Etim raised his eyebrows in perplexity and padded silently to the ICU. Nurse Sylvia followed closely behind.
Etim froze momentarily at the doorway as his eyes beheld the patient sitting up in bed, totally engrossed in disconnecting the wires attached to his chest for monitoring his vitals, oblivious of the joyous chaos he’s causing amongst the hospital staffs.
Suddenly, Dr. Etim’s eyes misted over as he recalled all the events preceding this awesome moment! Time ceased to be. He watched briefly as Andre wincing attempted to lift his legs over the edge of the bed in a bid to get up.
Relief and gratitude flooded the doctor’s heart. “It’s a bit too early to be walking!”
Andre lifted his gaze to the spot where the voice came. He gave the doctor a searching look. Dr. Etim flashed him a happy smile. “Ola Andre, I’m Dr. Etim Aniekan; Dr. Etim for short.”
“Hi doc,” he responded. “How did I get here?”
“Sit still.” Dr. Etim strode towards him.
“It will comeback gradually to you.” The doctor held the patient’s wrist feeling for his radial pulse. “I’ll tell you the bit I know but you must sit still now. I need to examine you.” He raised his other arm to his face and glanced at his wrist-watch in a bid to count Andre’s pulse.
Suddenly, his brow furrowed. He gazed closely at his watch to make doubly sure. A split second ensued before his lips slowly curved into a bright smile and his face shone with overwhelming joy as he raised his head to the horizon. “Thank you!” He whispered softly.
His watch had stopped. Time had frozen!