The afternoon sun was scorching like hell and didn’t seem to want to relent. I dashed into the coolness of the hospital but several minutes later, I still felt very hot. Perhaps the right word is uncomfortable.
Or maybe even uneasy.
Regardless of what word English would use, I was still scorching hot within me.
‘Doctor, are you okay?’ it was one of the new nurses. I nodded and managed a smile, not able to properly formulate words at that point. She stood for a few seconds, maybe confirming if I was indeed okay, before she walked off.
I walked into my office and sat down, my thoughts all over the place.
Could I really go on with this? Had I really weighed the consequences of what I was about to do? I managed to pull myself out of my thoughts and arrange the necessary things for the evening duty that had been ‘bestowed’ upon me.
Ha! Bestowed. As though it were a gift.
I left the silence my office provided me to the chaos of the Oncology Ward to make my evening rounds. Here, all you could see for as far as your eyes could see were people in pain, lifeless eyes waiting for pain to desert them, hanging on a fragile thread of hope. There were a few whose threads were a bit longer, stronger than others.
‘Doctor, it hurts really bad. Help me, doctor..’ his voice was cut off by another bout of pain that shot through him. I held his hand and tried to soothe him as he struggled through the pain. I could only imagine how he felt but try as much as I could, I couldn’t do more than I was doing already.
Further down the hall, I stopped by to see Mrs. Daramola; it always hurt to see the anguish in her eyes. I checked her chart and then ordered another shot of a pain relief to be given to her to get her through a night’s sleep. She needed that much and maybe even more. But medicine had its limits.
After about three more patients, I got to my favourite and yet worst patient. Faith was a twenty year old whose name truly shone through her character. Her favourite words were scriptures from the Bible, especially this verse which talks about having faith so small yet could move a mountain. Because of her, I had had it pasted on my office wall – not that I strongly believed it but it was at least a fragile thread of hope.
‘Doctor, thank you. I don’t know exactly how it would go but thank you. Regardless of what happens tonight, thank you.’
‘Faith, I haven’t been myself all day thinking about this. This is huge, this is scary. Its..’
Her gasp of pain brought me out of my dialogue and had me rushing to her side.
‘Where does it hurt now?’ I asked.
‘Everywhere, doc. But soon, nowhere.’ And she smiled.
How she could smile, I would never understand. But she did. In the midst of chronic lung cancer and knowing that death was just at your door, even though you had tried all medicine had available.
Sometimes, I wondered if she was truly human, or maybe an alien on a passing journey to her real planet. Her faith spoke volumes.
‘Can you call my mother in now? I want to see her before that time.’
‘Yes, of – of course. She’s down the corridor. But, Faith, are you sure?’
She nodded yes and smiled again.
All things must end, one day. Even faith has its breaking point.
‘Valar morghulis, doctor. And its my turn now.’
I left the room and called in her mother, my eyes not able to met hers.
It was barely three hours left when I entered my office.
I pulled out the syringe from her right butt cheek and couldn’t help the tears as they flowed down my cheeks.
‘Thank you doctor.’
‘But why, Faith?’
‘Sometimes, we must decide when we’ve had enough and when we can go on. I had had enough and there was no more road to continue on.’
‘We’ll turn off the life support in a few seconds.’ The nurse assisting me said.
Faith nodded and smiled and before we could wrap our heads round the situation, she laughed her first real laugh in the eight months she had been here.
‘Freedom, doctor. I can feel it.’
The verdict was that her body couldn’t contain the pain anymore and had given up. Her mother never came to claim her body but we followed her wish as found in the letter under her pillow – to be cremated.
Every so often, I see the verse on my wall and smile. Perhaps, faith is sometimes the courage to ends your pain yourself.
*Euthanasia is the practice of intentionally ending a life to relieve pain and suffering.