“Don’t dare a person who has nothing else left to lose.”
― Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Kiss an Angel
I was on neurology department for my medical clerkship this month when a 19 years old women came two weeks ago. She is having her second child and feel sick for two weeks before going to hospital, her eyes couldn’t see outward and she complained about her headache. More than that, her husband was worried about their child and so does the doctors managing her. Now she still lies on the bed in ICU with her husband waiting nearby.
Just two weeks before a 20 years old man came with a seizure and unconsciousness due to meningitis, a viral infection in the brain with few complication. From few talks with her mother, this man was about to get married in next two weeks after admission. Now he is sometime awake, then unconscious for the next few hours. Her mother is waiting for him beside the bed. Both of patients family said the same thing, “please do whatever best for my family”. As a doctor I was wondering what “best” actually means. For the pregnant women, the best medicine for her would not be the same with the best medication for the baby inside her. And for the man, even the best medication would result in impairment of his brain. His meningitis has turned into a haemorrhage in the brain’s ventricle.
Neurologist and internist are doing their “best” in improving the patient’s condition, the stakes are life and a mistake could cause further damage. The doctors knew this, and the family are told about it as well. In this post, I want to assess the psychological damage of such condition for the patient’s family instead of focusing on the medical aspect of the patients.
Medical students are taught since their first year to have empathy for the patient. Empathy is the experience of understanding another person’s condition from their perspective. You place yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. Now imagine yourself in the position of a man being worried about your wife’s life and your second child’s life. You don’t know whether your wife would still be alive conscious tomorrow, whether your will see your second child, or see your wife the way it used to be. It’s not strange for a man in such position to give everything he has to “get his wife back to normal”, and that’s what he did.
Even when the government’s medical insurance doesn’t cover the procedure she has to do, he paid the cost of it which is about equal to his one month salary. Or if you were a parent, would you expect to burry you own child? How would you feel knowing that your child might be gone, perhaps the most treasured thing you have in this world? How far would you go to save the one you love? Humanity have a word to describe such feeling, feeling of desperation. When we have our low, when everything that could go wrong does, when we couldn’t imagine how we could be alive next month, that’s when we reflect on our life.
There are two response coming from desperation, spiralling down to the bottom of life and making a leap forward. You know what I mean by “spiralling down to the bottom of life”, alcohol, drugs, and many ways to avoid conscious thinking because people hate the condition they are in. The other alternative is to reflect on own’s life, where they thought they were going and where they are now, and making a resolution for the future. Such period of life could be a turnaround phase from bad to good, from good to better.
Making a contribution to the society is what people usually promise to do when they are desperate. And many did it afterward. People who “have been there” knows exactly how it feels dealing with such problem and what they need at the time. In turn to relief others suffering with the same problem, these people help others in similar situation.
A good deed of action produce another, multiplying exponentially over time. Perhaps that’s what a quote means:
“Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call out our courage and strength.”
If you are having you life’s all-time-low, or desperate of numerous problems, hang in there! You are not the only one who have been there, and sooner or later time will resolve it.