One may find themselves trying to overcome childhood sexual abuse and jump from the frying pan into the fire by volunteering with the USMC during the Vietnam War from 1971 to 1972; subsequently, sexually molested by a mid-level NCO while serving active duty through Combat Training. As well, with combat related scenarios one may also be injured upon a field training exercise after three consecutive explosive blasts are detonated, hurling an M-60 spent cartridge to its potential target, a young seventeen – year-old male’s cervical spine, thus, inducing a permanent nerve damage that could potentially one day paralyze him from the neck down, including the larynx. Hence, my patriotic chore that led a confused, dazed, and mystified young man to serious suicidal attempts and further ideation. This continued for many years.
You didn’t know this. But I spent days and nights next door to where you decided to end your life. Where the doctors gather, pondering over differentials… treatments…dissecting our every move to ensure that we are doing the right thing for you.
The right thing…
If I had known you, I would have fought for you. I know you weren’t my patient; I know we had never even met. I am just the person who found you. Who pronounced you. You were already cold, but still, I placed the stethoscope against your chest and listened.
I didn’t hear anything.
Did you hear me as
I wept for you?
you were suffering. I’m sorry you felt
as if you had
no way out.
I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.
This is a reflection over an event that happened during residency. An event I still think about at times. A lingering guilt.
I’ve been wanting to write this to you for a while. I go to work, and though I’ve never met you, I think about you. I talk to a patient, and while I’m standing there, there you are again, tugging at my heart. Maybe it’s because I know of your mom, and I know of her heartbreak. Maybe it’s because I know you will never be able to do what you were meant to do.
This is what I know about you. You were a medical student. You went to school in North Carolina. You cared for people. And you wanted to care for them at the greatest capacity possible. You wanted to help people during their times of sickness, strengthen them in their weakness. But your life was robbed from beneath you. So this will never happen. And the world has lost another great physician.
I hear you were a loving person, one who illuminated the day of all whom you came across. Of course you did. You were your mother’s shining star. But what no one knew, and what you didn’t reveal until your departure, was that you were also suffering. Deeply. But you were good at hiding it with your smile. And because it was a genuine smile, we were beguiled. Especially those closest to you.
When I think of you, my heart aches. Maybe it’s because I feel that I understand you better than I have a right to. Maybe it is because I once smiled a similar smile. I weep because of what you did, and because I think I understand why.
When I think of you, my soul is anguished. You were going to be a remarkable physician. You would have touched others with your empathy, changed lives with your care. They would have remembered you, not simply because you were the one who eased their suffering and comforted their souls, but because your spirit would have brightened their lives. No one had the right to take that away from you.
Founded in 2014 by Dr. Phoebe Chi, PhoebeMD: Health + Inspiration is a health information and literary arts website that aims to inspire, empower, and inform through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting stories, and original poetry.