The clock struck nine.The resident Doctor opened the window pane. He could hear the waves. The sea was not far. Humidity lingered in the air. Dark clouds loomed large. Sun glowed with a subdued vigour. The resident waited for the rounds to begin. He dreaded the moment.
His consultant was a man of short temper. The resident had attended to every patient in the ward with great care. He had gone into the details of every case. He remembered Sir William Osler, a great clinician from yesteryears. “Listen, listen, listen…the patient is telling you the diagnosis.” Osler’s wisdom trumped textbook knowledge even today.
“Doctor! you look lost.” A familiar deep hoarse voice shook him out of his reverie. Consultant was not in a good mood.
“Are we ready to begin rounds?” asked the Consultant.
A drop of sweat appeared on the resident’s forehead.
“Yes sir.” is all that he could say. The consultant and resident entered the air conditioned ward accompanied by duty nurse. The cold draft of air conditioner hit the resident’s face. The drop of sweat froze. It refused to trickle down.
Ward rounds commenced. The ward was a huge hall with 18 beds. All the beds were occupied. The first patient was an old man. The resident had missed to record his blood pressure.
“When will you learn?” The Consultant was unforgiving.
Resident sensed concern in Consultant’s voice. “Was the concern directed at him…or towards the patient?” resident wondered. He sprang to the bedside to check the old man’s blood pressure.
“Sir… it’s 180/110 mmHg.” resident’s voice quivered. He had missed an important finding. A grave error in consultant’s eyes.
“You don’t deserve to be a doctor.” Consultant raised his voice.
The drop of sweat started to trickle. The final exit exams were nearing. His consultant was one of the designated university examiners. Resident visualised years of hard work crumbling to naught. The venerated alphabets “M.D.” weren’t destined to be his.
The patient sympathised with the resident. He had seen him put in long hours in the ward. The young resident always listened to his complaints with patience and empathy. The resident had accompanied the old man during the occassional evening walks. He smiled at the resident in a reassuring way.
The resident struggled to regain his composure.
“I will be careful in future.” resident’s voice sounded apologetic.
The rounds took over two hours. Consultant pointed out many more mistakes.
“I will be back in one hour. You better get everything in order.” consultant barged out of the ward.
Resident’s morale hit the boots. He looked around. Nurses resumed their daily chores. Patients smiled at him. Reassuring smiles tinged with concern. One patient gestured with a closed fist urging him to be strong during trying times. He was a military veteran. Away from home, these patients were his family.
The resident had seen worse days. Good days were as rare as his blood group. He was O negative. As a child he used to take pride in his rare blood group. Whenever he felt sad during residency, he would walk upto the blood bank and donate blood. O negative, being rare, was always in great demand.
It had already been ten minutes since the consultant had staged a walk out. He looked up at the ceiling hoping for divine inspiration. Instead, he saw the proverbial “hanging sword of Damocles”. He began rectifying his mistakes in preparation for rounds.
Clock struck 9 again. It was dark outside. The day had been draining. He felt hypoglycaemic. He had skipped lunch. He decided to go to the nearest McDonald’s. A burger and cold coffee. Simple joys of life.
He called up his friends. They declined. They were experiencing worse days than him. He thought of asking the Psychiatry resident out for dinner. She was pretty. They had briefly met at the Hospital cafeteria that morning. Her smile was rejuvenating. He couldn’t muster enough courage though.
The day had sapped his confidence. He dropped the idea. He couldn’t afford another rejection that day.
The road was empty. He raced his bike to regain the lost confidence. The events of the day replayed in his mind again and again. McDonald’s was ten minutes away. Thats when it happened. He was not the only one racing that night. A speeding car hit him at the crossing.
“We need blood urgently.” resident overheard while awakening from what felt like deep sleep. The surroundings looked familiar. He realised he was in the casualty. He couldn’t speak. There was a tube inserted down his throat. He could open his eyes partially. There was great hustle and bustle. Surgeons and paramedics moved around the room with great speed and purpose.
The young surgeon on duty was shouting crisp medical orders.
“Secure that intravenous line. Run the normal saline immediately.”
“Get me that bottle of blood now.” Surgeon’s voice boomed in the casualty.
“How much time will it take?” shouted the Surgeon in charge.
“I don’t know. Its a rare blood group. I am not sure if those guys have O negative either.” technician’s voice was shaking. The technician had made extensive calls. No hospital in the city stored O negative blood that night. He had sent out SOS messages to blood banks and NGOs for potential donors.
“What?” the Surgeon shouted. “He is one of us. He is bleeding to death.”
The air conditioned casualty fell silent. There was a chill in the air.