Her eyes kept moving from him to the doctor, who was preparing to admit the patient for palliative care. Cancer had wrung almost all life out of her. She breathed, her eyes moved, she was alive, just about.
“You must do everything to make her better,” the son implored, an emotional wreck. His hands were shivering. Saliva dripped from his mouth as he alternated between crying and screaming.
One hand on a wheeled stretcher, an attendant waited to take the patient to the ward. He was used to the paper work, knew it would be over soon. He was used to emotional outbursts from members of the patient’s family, most often the women. This was unusual—such an advanced case, the son looked old too, and was still so attached. Won’t be easy after admission, the attendant sighed.
A security guard on his routine rounds peeped into the admission room to check on the commotion. He stood there for a while, wondering if should try to calm the son somehow. Then he decided against it. That was the counselor’s job.
“I will do anything for her, please save her,” he started another bout of crying. The counselor turned to him. “We want one member of the family to stay with the patient. As long as she is here and until she is strong enough to go home. You will stay with her, won’t you?” she asked. She thought of repeating what she had told him earlier about palliative care, that all they hoped to do was ease her pain and discomfort. Then she decided against it. Maybe, later.
“Yes, yes, I will do that,” suddenly the son sounded a little less sure. “I will have to be here all the time, is it?”
Was that a problem?
“No, no problem. I will just go and get my clothes.”
“You can do that after we admit her and she is comfortable in the ward,” the doctor reassured him. “You just need to sign a couple of papers and we are through.”
He suddenly got up, wiped his face with trembling hands and started moving out. “I will sign when I come back.”
He hurried to the gate, where the guard came out to meet him.
He caught hold of the guard by his shoulder, his sweaty face inches from the guard’s.
“Listen brother, you must help me. I haven’t had anything for the last two hours. I can’t survive any longer. I will die. Please get me some. Do you keep some here?” his words rushed out in a disorderly tumble.
The shocked guard just stood there for a minute. Then he shook the other guy’s hands off his shoulders. “What do you mean? What?”
The other guy made a drinking motion with his thumb.
With some difficulty the guard managed to control himself. “Listen, we don’t drink here. And we do not allow anyone else to drink here. How can you even—”
“All right. Get me some later? I will pay you. We will sit together,” he was desperate.
The guard took a moment to take a deep breath. Then he made it very clear what was just not possible. He also made it clear that he would call the police, if necessary.
The alcoholic flew into a rage. “That $%#@ hag won’t die and she won’t let me live. I brought here thinking she would die fast and I won’t have to pay anything. God knows how long the &^%$# will live.”
Before the guard could react, the son rushed out of the gate. The guard followed, only to see the son get into an auto rickshaw that he had parked some distance away from the gate, out of sight.
The vehicle rushed back into the building, almost knocking the guard down. The guard ran behind it.
It stopped near the admission room. The son jumped out, leaving the engine running. As the others watched open-mouthed, he pulled the patient up from the stretcher. She moaned, probably in pain, probably in fear. He half dragged her, half carried her into the rickshaw.
“Damn woman. You won’t die, but you will kill me. I brought you here to die. Why can’t you just die!”
He threw her into the back of the rickshaw and jumped into the driver’s seat. She collapsed, half out of the seat, her right hand hanging out of the vehicle.
He took a sharp turn, almost knocking the guard down a second time. Before the panting guard reached the gate, the auto rickshaw was out of sight.
Back in the admission room, the doctor and the counselor looked at each other and gathered themselves with an effort. They sat in the room for a while, both silent.
At the entrance, the guard remained frozen outside the gate.
Then the counselor got up, fixed a smile on her face and walked into the adjoining room to call the next patient.
The guard walked back slowly, wiped his eyes, put his cap on.
Life had to go on.
Based on a true incident.