A doctor’s worst nightmare

Published: October 27, 2013

She had been telling the dead patients' family members that she did everything she could to save them. Little did she knew what was coming her way.

It had been a pretty gruelling 30 hours. Her hands shook as she poured out a cup of tea for herself and tried to relax. Four patients had been admitted with final stage liver disease, the previous night.

Two of them had died during the night, despite all efforts at resuscitation. One was recovering after suffering a massive bout of vomiting blood and the fourth was in a coma, but she was hopeful he would come out of it. Half of her night had been spent explaining the dismal prognosis of de-compensated liver disease to the patients’ relatives and attendants, and consoling the attendants of those who had passed away.

She had a standard line.

‘Your relative has a disease that has reached a stage where recovery is not possible. I will do the best I can and will spare no efforts. The rest is Allah’s (SWT) will.’

But it is never easy to handle death.

As she sipped her tea, she tried not to think of the two patients who had died the previous night. However, the sight of those sobbing relatives carrying their loved ones away was etched in her mind. The consultant’s morning round had been pretty tough as well. But in the end she got a pat on the back, because after all, she had actually managed to save two, and had done all that was humanly possible for the deceased.

Thankfully it was Friday and she was going to go home earlier than most days. Abbu would be returning from Jummah prayers by the time she would reach home and then he would make her sit down with him, while she tells him all that had happened during her call at the hospital. Talking to abbu always made her feel better. It was kind of therapeutic for her. He had always wanted to be a doctor himself and took great pride in the fact that his daughter was a doctor at a renowned hospital in Lahore.

As she packed her things and got ready to leave, her attention was drawn to an announcement that was being repeated blaring from the hospital’s PA system.

‘All doctors from all departments please report to the emergency room (ER)! All ward attendants please report to ER with stretchers. All available nursing staff please report to ER!’

It was probably another bomb blast in the city, she thought. Her own calm, business- like attitude surprised her. Oh well, here goes any chance of going home early, she thought.

She put her bag back and headed towards the ER. The room definitely looked chaotic. Stretchers with grievously injured patients were being brought in, some of whom were obviously dead.

Children were crying, women wailing and the doctors looked harassed as they scurried about their routine of saving lives amid oft happening disaster situations. The injured patients were being triaged quickly; some were wheeled in directly to the Operation Theatre while others were being given infusions in the ER to replace the blood loss. As she grabbed IV infusion sets, pain killer injections and quickly got to work, she asked a colleague what had actually happened.

‘I think it’s a terrorist attack on a mosque

‘Oh’ she replied casually while inserting the IV into an injured patient’s arm.

‘Which mosque was it?’

When he named the mosque her heart gave a lurch, her knees became weak and she had to sit down before she collapsed.

‘What’s the matter?’ he asked.

‘Abbu goes to the same mosque’ she managed to stammer.

She pulled out her cell phone and called her mother.

‘Ammi? Is abbu home?’

The response on the other end was a combination of crying and screams of panic.

‘I don’t know! I don’t know!’ screamed her mother.

She tried to calm her mother down, all the while trying the same for herself. She quickly scanned the ER, looking for abbu amongst the injured patients.

But he wasn’t there.

It was then that she saw one of her senior colleagues walking up to her. His face was deathly white and his eyes red.

‘You are a brave man’s brave daughter, right?’ he said, but his own voice trembled as he gently led her to a stretcher covered with a sheet.

‘NO!’ she wanted to scream. ‘I am not brave! I’m not brave enough for this!’

As he lifted the sheet and as her legs gave way, the last thing she heard him saying was,

‘There wasn’t much we could do. It was Allah’s (SWT) will.’

Fatima Javid

Fatima Javid

A specialist physician and a fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, with several years of work experience in Pakistan. She occasionally dabbles in freelance writing.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • x

    Nice effortRecommend

  • Dr. Adnan

    Your article brought tears to my eye. I guess only a doctor can understand a doctor’s ordeal.Recommend

  • inshirah qazmi

    heart wrenchingRecommend

  • yasrab

    don’t u sver quit writing. very well done.

  • SomeOneElse

    poetic indeed! well portrayed!Recommend

  • SomeOneElse

    Poetic Indeed! Well portrayed!Recommend

  • Samira

    Keep sharing and writing about such heart wrenching experiences Ma’am. I think this might help save our society from the desensitization it is suffering from. We need to feel for those who suffer.Recommend

  • Doctor Khurram

    Doctors should leave this country ASAPRecommend

  • Hammad Hasan

    May Allah bless the family of the deceased and strengthen them with patience and love. Your article was amazing. Keep posting such pieces so that the world can see how Pakistan is bleeding. May Allah protect us all.Recommend

  • tipu

    Your article reminds me of the massacre which happened in Lahore in 2 mosques of Ahmadis on 28 May, 2011. A family lost their only son; a young boy saw his father dead and blasted with blood and bullets > but he opted to help others. There are so many untold stories, some buried in the heart and some whispered with fear… for there maybe some extremist who might find you as a target. Not only Ahmadis, but shias, Christians and some hindus are also being slaughtered brutually in Pakistan in the name of Islam…. the govt as usual is a spectator and wants to hang on to power no matter how many lifes and those also innocent gone…..Recommend

  • shireen

    this left me with tears …. beautifully written and very relatableRecommend

  • Bilal Safdar

    Here I would like to request all the doctors to have little courtesy while declaring such news to the relatives, I still recall how rudely a well known neuro-surgeon just said “she is no more” for my mother. These four words always pinch me whenever I see any doctor.Recommend

  • Humanity

    This story inspired by the sensitivity of a physician and the close encounter with travesty unfolding in Pakistan on a regular basis aptly depicts reality.

    If only the silent majority would step out of their closets to boldly reject a bigoted ideology, would such stories be called fiction.

    Well done FJ — keep writing ..You have a gift !Recommend

  • Sob

    I second that. I can never forget how the doctor just uttered ‘she is dead’ when my mother passed away. The least she could do was to utter those words with a bit more empathy and respect. Nobody can take away the pain of losing a loved one. But that doesn’t mean the doctors have to be so blunt about it just because it was ‘just another patient’.Recommend

  • Bilal Safdar

    May Allah help you overcome that pain of losing your loved oneRecommend

  • Sarooj Noor

    Excellent writing. I literally cried while reading.

    May Allah Al Mighty give her & her family patience and strength. Ameen sum Ameen.

    Lastly, May we all be safe under the protection of Allah Subhanu wa Talah. AmeenRecommend