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Thursday, 11 March 2010

The S word - Part I

There's always that uneasy feeling among the bystanders when suicide happened. It's a rather awkward, morbid phenomenon to encounter and most people just don't know what to do. All they can think of are questions. Why? Why? Why?

During routine anaesthetic work in the theatre, a man was rushed into the A&E downstairs after being found unconscious. Very hypothermic, unresponsive, with empty boxes of medication nearby and sheets of information on drug overdose printed off the internet. Almost went into cardiorespiratory arrest, and CPR was done all the way from being found to being resuscitated in the A&E. I followed the anaesthetist consultant down to see the poorly guy, with dozens of people already buzzing around him.

Venflons, pulse oximetry, CVP, arterial line, ETT, NG tube, gastric lavage, peritoneal lavage, urinary catheter, temp probes. Nurses, doctors, students rush about compressing his chest, ventilating his lungs, putting up fluids, drawing up drugs, taking off bloods. All the hospital staff could do to salvage what they could from this man.

Even when he must have thought there's nothing to salvage from his life anymore.

It's baffling, isn't it, why some people chose to end their lives as the solution. Of course, the hospital staff's job is to save his life and not wonder why. Eventually he stabilised, although remained unresponsive to pain. Non-reactive dilated pupils.

It was thought he could have been brain dead already, with only the machines keeping him alive. He was then arranged for a transfer to the nearest ICU in another hospital, hours away. As the emergency passed, everyone eventually left the room to resume their daily routine in other parts of the hospital, entrusting the anaesthetic team to look after him.

Just as quickly as the room was filled with activity, it suddenly became calm and peaceful, with just the monitors beeping away the patient's vitals. I went in to check on the various tubes connected to the patient, and that was when I saw something that broke my heart.

On the back of his hand, he had written with a pen.

I'm sorry

I stopped there for a minute and just stared at the writing on his hand. All I could think of is just one thing. One question.


I pulled back his eyelids and stared into the distant eyes. No response at all.


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