I got a message few hours ago, saying my favorite, dearest patient is no more.
I met the sweet adolescent boy less than a year ago, when he had come for a biopsy under general anaesthesia for a suspected bone tumour. Like all children of his age, he was scared and anxious, yet surprisingly mature. The procedure was uneventful but for some reason, that boy's name persisted at the back of my mind and I later learn t that what he had was an atypical presentation of leukemia, cancer of the white blood cells. Soon he started coming to the OR for injections of anticancer medicines into the CSF, the cerebro spinal fluid.
Having gone through a painful bone biopsy without any anaesthesia, he was scared of the first injection. Here I got to do the thing I most love, counseling! Little did I know that a few words of comfort and a tight hand grip during the spinal would make me his most trusted anaethetist, and him my most favorite patient.
We would meet often, sometimes for IV access, intrathecal injections, and sometimes just to say hi. He braved many admissions including one in the ICU on a ventilator, knocked out with sedatives for 48 hours. Yet he was always full of optimism. "My dad's going to throw a party when I get better. You please come!" He told me before his unfortunate, unexpected recurrence.
We all knew things were getting worse each passing days, but he was never low. Considering his age, he was definitely aware things were not getting any better. Yet he was never low and was prepared to fight back, with a great will to live. He always remembered every person he met in the hospital by his name. All anesthesia residents who did his spinals, the medical residents and consultants doing the rounds, the OT assistants and nurses who always held his hand during the procedures, day care nurses who gave him his injections, the OT front desk managers, everyone was his friend. He always had a cheerful smile for everyone. His optimism and cheer was infective. For the amount of suffering he was enduring, there was not a flicker of sorrow on his face nor any traces of it in his demeanor.
When I told him in July about my term in the hospital coming to an end, he was a bit sad. "Can you not extend your stay? It hurts a lot less when you do my spinals!" I promised him I will meet him whenever I was around. And I honoured it whenever possible. In mid July, when he gave chocolates to everyone in the OT for his birthday, with a special one for me and one of my consultants, we all prayed to God for his health and may he live to celebrate many more birthdays. While knowing that adolescent leukemia s have a bad outcome generally.
I last saw him in the first week of August. After that, busy with my exams, I did not speak to him or hear from him for a few weeks. Then today, I learn t from his mother he passed away after 2 weeks of hospitalization. I really wish I could have met him one last time. Before he breathed his last in his father's arms 2 days ago.
When I called his mother I didn't know what to say. The pain of losing a child is probably one of the most terrible things that should happen to anyone. She was in tears, yet thankful to everyone in the hospital who made her son as comfortable as they could.
Its easy to say, his death was probably inevitable, the future wasn't exactly very bright looking. But no amount of rationalization can reduce the pain, the uncomfortable ache in the heart I feel when I remember his voice, his smile, his cheerful optimism. Having grown close to his family over the past few months only makes it worse.
You will be sorely missed, child! Very unknowingly you have taught me a few invaluable lessons in life, which I will never forget. May your soul rest in peace.