I spent time at the Bhopal Memorial Hospital yesterday. Oh man. I got to shadow a physician who is specialized in cancer. He was also training a junior physician, so I got to a see a lot – doctor-trainee, trainee-patient, and doctor-patient.
Cancer is a helluva thing – some patients will die and others, are showing signs of recovery. I left with this gem of a mantra, “He is going to die – we all die”. The blunt honesty hit me like a ton of brick but then the reality set in, he is right, and he’s a doctor, and he sees this every day. For the past year I volunteered at hospice palliative care but I am still not immune to the shock upon hearing the words that “he/she will die and there is nothing, medically, we can do to save them.”
I was instantly reminded of this scene from Hadrian’s Memoirs:
“My dear Mark, Today I went to see my physician, Hermogenes, who has just returned to the villa from a rather long journey in Asia … I took off my cloak and tunic and lay down on a couch. I spare you details which would be as disagreeable to you as to me … the description of the body of a man who is growing old, and is about to die of a dropsical heart … It is difficult to remain an emperor in presence of a physician, and difficult even to keep one’s essential quality as a man … This morning it occurred to me that my body, my faithful companion and friend, truer and better known to me than my own soul, may be, after all, a sly beast who will end by devouring his master … ”
Right before I left for the hospital, I was asked to edit a document. The document was for a seventeen year old boy who has a hole in his heart—his parents were both victims of the gas leak and are now survivors who are chronically ill, which their son has inherited. This is common here in Bhopal…heart breaking.
Today, all day staff meeting….I am planning on visiting a mosque this evening. If I do, you’ll read about it tomorrow.