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Friday, September 23, 2005

Not part of my job description

I've drawn the curtains round the trolley that the old man is lying on. He is refusing to look at me. I ask him what happened. He does not answer. I pull up a chair, and sit next to the trolley and wait.

3 minutes of silence, then he starts to speak. His voice is soft and calm, with a rasp in it that makes me think that he hasn't spoken in days or weeks.

He'd been thinking on it a long time. Weeks. Months, really. Perhaps almost a year. Ever since he realised that his hands had begun to shake so much that he could no longer shave himself. But he'd only started planning a few weeks ago.

He started stopped taking his painkillers. Hid them behind his bedside table instead. Then, when his wife was out, he walked down to the cornershop and bought a bottle of vodka. It took him two hours to walk the 100 metres there and back. He had been getting alot worse lately, even when using a zimmerframe. The bottle of vodka was hidden behind a bookcase in the spare room.

He waited until the day that his wife was visiting her sister. She would be gone the whole day. She left early in the morning, when she thought he was still asleep. He wasn't.

When he heard the car drive away, he got out of bed. He washed himself with great difficulty. Then he got his hidden stash of tablets and started taking them, ten at a time, with large mouthfuls of vodka. He finds it very difficult to swallow nowadays, so it takes him a few hours to finish up all the tablets and all the vodka. He leaves a note on the dresser for his wife.

And then he lay down in bed and tried very very hard to die.

But it didn't work. Instead, his wife came home late into the night and found him, still alive.

Now, he looks at me and says, "Can you help me?"

And I say, "I'm sorry."

And he turns away and weeps.

I stay and put my hand on his arm until he falls silent. I set up a drip with antidotes in it.

And I go back to my desk, reach for the phone, and call the psychiatry team.

I feel miserable for the rest of the day.

I hate it when this happens.

6 Comments:

Blogger Tym said...

Ergh. How do you stand it?? My heart pain...

9:48 pm  
Blogger gingerena said...

it has become a ritual to read your blog ever since i accidentally bumped into it months back.....I really admire your ability to write. I feel as if you're talking to me.

10:05 pm  
Blogger jadeite said...

I may not know his situation, but I know the desperation, and the pain... How do you cope with his pain? How do you cope with yours?

Must be hard, being a doctor.

11:47 pm  
Blogger tscd said...

tym and jadeite: Somebody else asked me this in an email...I think maybe I should write a post on it.

gingerena: Nice to meet you and thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you're answering!

7:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i once popped some personal med wif beer in the midst of my depression. i did not have the intention of suicide, although what i had in mind was serious self-inflicted harm. all i wanted was to end the emotional agony and mental torture. i was knocked out for 2 days which i discovered when i woke up in the hospital. i understand the hopelessness the old man went through. i really hope he can find his own salvation someday soon, in whatever form it takes.

12:16 am  
Blogger tscd said...

anonymous: Thank you for sharing something so personal. I hope you have found life worth living again.

9:41 pm  

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