– Hilary Alemenzohu, ABH Press

A very cool evening some weeks back had me walk-running to the children emergency department, if you by now think this story is about some spine chilling, gore filled event involving some psychopath and children in emergency rooms, I say to you my friend you are watching far too many horror movies, and your conclusion however abrupt is not entirely misconstrued.

I of course like many of us medical students was there to get the almighty paediatrics booklet signed, however a weird twist of event (by weird twist I mean the trickery of some friend; you know thyself) had me bagging a child, that is I was offering mechanical ventilation via a bag valve mask to the little girl who prior to my arrival had gone into a respiratory arrest and couldn’t breathe on her own.

So away I pressed, at first hoping to quickly get it over with, get signed, go back to the hostel and complete my case write up which was due the next day in my defense. So in that manner the night progressed rather slowly, the house officer and registrar had gone on to other duties and I was left alone with the child bagging away, hoping the child regained consciousness for both of our sakes.

It was 2:00 am and I had been bagging for four straight hours , tired sweaty and angry with a singular thought in my head (how the heck am I getting out of here?) I continued, not caring if I was doing it effectively enough to benefit the child. By then the girl’s father was around and kept bickering in subtle and non subtle ways to the house officers to come assist me as I was tired, and had been at it a while, he even tried scolding at me that I was not effective but I guess my face must have been some grotesque mask because in no time he changed tactics and offered to assist me, I resisted a while but by the time my lower back started spasmodically contracting I succumbed, and immediately he touched the bag, I tissued (ran, mistified, zoomed) back to my room. I slept soundly that morning.

A week went by, the little girl completely removed out of my mind when I learnt that she died much later that morning. Her death was the genesis of a cascade of thoughts, and it had me doing some serious evaluation. In my experience; I have always prided myself with being a good human being first before being anything else, but it hit me I had changed quite a lot , it occurred to me that the patients I had the privilege of interacting with had become something less than human in my mental, and much so for the persons around me which would include a number of you reading this piece, I realize now that that girl was someone’s daughter, friend, joy, center of someone’s universe (as an unarguable fact not minding the spatial constraint) but to me she was an extra call, a hinderance to some relaxing me-time and more things I am not proud to say I associate a human with. In my moral books, that is sociopathy in highest form and I dare say a vice like that can only be curbed with some level of intentionality.

I understand that not all of us have this problem, but if we were to thoroughly examine ourselves, I am sure most of us do. I understand medicine (the unrelenting demanding mistress she is) prides efficiency over sympathy but remember friend you are a healer and called to a higher standard. The morality of it all to me is non-negotiable, I must strike the golden balance of efficient healer and empathic confidant above all.

A story is told of a sociopath surgeon who after an operation where he lost his patient comes out and says the procedure was successful but the patient did not make it, this to me bares the culmination of events such as the one of myself and the little girl, unfazed chip by chip until you are a detached “sociopath”, so my friend fight for your empathy lest the answer to the titular question stand affirmative in your case.

1 Comment
  1. Bimmy says

    I find it very scary how much I relate to this piece.

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