A true story.
Hospital has a policy: if you’re a bachelor and a surgeon, more often than not, you’d be the one that’ll work the on call hours. And if you’re an intern surgeon, they send you to the A&E ward – the hospital’s 7-eleven.
One night after taking over from the previous shift, a small boy was wheeled in by his mother. “Doctor?” My son broke his hand, can you please help him?
I took a look at his hand. It was an open wound with the bone actually jutting out. “This might be nasty,” I told the mother. We’ll have to get an X-ray, and we’ll get the operation theatre ready. So in the mean time ma’am, I suppose you can wait outside alright?
As soon as I wheeled him out of A&E heading towards the radiology department, he started sobbing. “Doctor, my hand’s very painful,” he sobbed. Of course it hurts small boy, surely it hurts. But why do you only start crying now? Wasn’t it painful just now?
“I don’t want mummy to see me crying.”
I smiled. What happened boy? How did you hurt your hand? “I was playing with daddy and while running I fell down.” I rubbed his short hair. Why so careless boy? “I didn’t see the steps… it’s not my fault…” he whined.
We got the X-ray done and took him back to the A&E. “I think we’ll operate right away ma’am.” After the mom signed all the consent forms, she held the boy’s hand. The boy was already lying on the bed, his clothes changed and all prepared for the surgery.
“Mummy… Please don’t scold daddy okay? It’s not daddy’s fault…” Okay... Mummy promise, mummy won’t scold daddy. From a distance I could see the mom smiling as her hands ran through his hair.
“Mummy, don’t worry ok? I’ll be fine… I promise I’ll be fine..”
We took over from the mother. As the doors swung close behind us, the boy tugged my surgical gown with his other hand. “Doctor... I’m sorry for making you work… mummy said doctors work very hard every day but you’re still working even at night…” No no! It’s my job boy. Don’t worry, I’m happy to help you get better. Really!
We wheeled him into the surgery. The anesthesia machine was ready and the mask in my hands. “Doctor!” he softly cried. “You’ll fix my hand right? It’ll be fine right? Because if my hand does not get well, mummy will cry…”
Before I could say anything else, he continued wearily, “Can you help to put a blanket over her later so she can sleep? Doctor please tell mummy I’ll be fine… and tell mummy not to scold daddy, it’s not his fault…”
I knew he could see my smile hidden by the surgical mask. “I promise, boy! For now, let’s make sure you get well so you can take care of mummy alright?” His head nodded gently. The gas mask was placed over his nose and mouth, and in seconds he was fast asleep.
The orthopedic surgeon asked for the scalpel. “Alright guys, let’s get this sweetheart's hand back.” An hour later I walked out to inform the mom about the successful and uncomplicated surgery while passing her a blanket. I never saw him wake up because I never followed up on that boy. Till this day though, I could still remember that one surgery where everyone in the theatre was virtually speechless but smiling all the way. Truly it is patients like that boy that puts a smile on the weariest facade of our job.