Existential medicine. Putting a stopper in death
I’ve realized that change is what’s scary. I’m thinking in particular about this patient I ended up talking to a lot partially because I had to translate.
They’re in end-stage renal disease (among other things), and it’s established in the back of everyone’s mind that this person is going to expire pretty soon.
It didn’t spook me as much when they were animated enough to have a conversation, but when there was a sudden change in their condition, the whole atmosphere became charged with this sense of nausea and impending doom. Rationally speaking, nothing has actually changed. The prognosis is the same and we all knew what the profession of events would be. But I guess this is where denial comes in, the last image I had was of a pretty cheerful person who made their spouse buy me coffee as a thank you. You’re mind tends to run away with you and you imagine someone in a hospital gown skipping away in fields of gold. Or the ridiculous idea of a “peaceful” end. I don’t think anyone really just dies in their sleep without looking horribly worse or being in some sort of distress.
Anyway, when I saw how much worse they got, I was thinking, “holy –, this person is going to die. They’re going to die. What am I doing? What can I do? Is my face right? Should I be more emotional, less? No, no crying, there’s enough wet eyes here to water a garden”.
And now, at the end of the day, that sense of essentially freaking out has subsided and I’m sort of thinking of them as gone. And that doesn’t bother me as much because its just something you can’t alter. I’m off for the weekend, and I said hi/goodbye to the couple, and I got this sense that I was leaving them in a static field of purgatory. One of them is hovering between life and death. The other is between a splintering point in their life. Right now, it’s tenuously held together. On Monday, the world is going to be different. I can almost imagine a whiteboard eraser going over their name on a family tree. It’s…some word between curious and morbid.
I’m going to make a pop culture reference. When Harry potter was really big, my favorite character was Snape. But at the second to last book, I decided to stop reading the series because I knew Snape would have to die in order to be redeemed. That was my version of time travel. Just stop right there and that canon never would have happened. This is the same thing. And I don’t know if I should hope/pray for them to last a little longer, because it really wouldn’t change anything.
Then again, I suppose We’re all postponing the inevitable.