Thursday, November 15, 2007

21st century festering wounds-IV

Samuel Vespucci walked out of my door to use the restroom. I was still puzzled over the apparent disconnect between what I had told him, that I was confident we'd be able to find a cure for his festering wound, and how he had responded to such a claim. What was wrong?

I for one would be happy to hear that there was a new way to possibly cure me. But then again I'd never had more than a broken nose, so what did I know of true illness?

I thought I had done the typical scientist thing of using too much jargon, but then again, I said things as simply as possible.

Suddenly I realized something else was amiss, when I heard another crashing sound in the halls. Samuel had fallen to the ground and was clutching at his wounded thigh.

With words that I dare not repeat for fear that some day an innocent tongue would see these words that I write and be as blemished as a "sailor" like myself felt, he belted out cries of anguish. It was horrible.

My hands fluttered and fumbled as I started dialing on my cellular phone for Dr. Kim. Fortunately, another professor in the department was an M.D./Ph.D., and she came to the rescue while we waited for an ambulance.

I was not permitted to board, so I got into my car and followed.
"So this is what ambulance chasers do."

As I arrived I parked in a visitor lot but had no patience to get my parking permit from the kiosk. I proceeded inside to try to find Sam, and maybe my friend Dr. Greg Kim.

Dr. Kim was there to meet me.

"Hey Greg-how is Sam?"

He looked at me with the sort of a smile that only a doctor could produce at a time like this. Sincerely processed to ensure maximal comfort, he said, "We're doing everything we can, and I hope that means he will stabilize. But I'm not ready to state that that is the prognosis. How are things on your end?"

"Um, about that, I just got the samples today. He dropped them off and then a few minutes later he fell to the ground. So, no, no progress yet."

"Well, Drew, you can go in and see Mr. Vespucci."

I entered the isolation room in the ER, and while conscious, Sam looked even feebler than before, almost childlike.

"Hey Andrew, looks like I got to your office too late. I thought you were like House MD--that guy and his cronies usually start by thinking they cured the patient and then realizing they were wrong. You didn't even get a chance to be wrong."

I tried not to frown, but realized I was cringing. "I know, Sam, I know. Just hang in there. It's not too late for us to make a breakthrough."

I tried to muster words that would frame a convincing argument, but as my countenance greyed with doubt, Sam interjected.

"I've signed it, Andrew. The DNR--do not resuscitate. If I go under one more time, I don't want to come back up. I've come too close to death too many times to have hope that this won't be just another palliative treatment. You know that word, right?"

It was familiar to me, but having focused on cellular biology I could not place its exact definition. As my mind searched, Vespucci began chanting a rote quote, apparently from the dictionary.

"PALLIATIVE: ALLEVIATING PAIN AND SYMPTOMS WITHOUT ELIMINATING THE CAUSE." The words were so bitterly recited that I couldn't help but feel pity in a new way. What I thought pity before at times such as funerals was no longer pity to me. That emotion was merely a bit of smug sentimentality. This new depth of sorrow was something I had never experienced, and would forever more be pity to me.

He went on, "That's all this is, you hear me? And if that's all you can do, I don't need you people."

His face cringed into a look reminiscent of a fearful animal, as he broke into tears, and at that moment, I could not blame him.

All that I could do was hope to save him.

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