How Long, O Lord?

This morning I met an accident, where I almost lost my right ring finger. I rushed myself to the Emergency Room of the East Avenue Medical Center, and the staff had to cut my wedding ring in order to allow them access to the wound so that they can clean it and then suture it.

The ER was full of people in suffering and pain. When I arrived, the beds were full of poor people in dirty clothes, some with dextrose bags attached to them, some half-naked and bleeding. They had all met various accidents. What was striking was that, on two beds, patients were lying with their mouths open and a tube inserted, with the tube attached to what looked like an oblong rubber bag which was being squeezed rhythmically by a relative or friend standing beside the bed. They had to be given precious oxygen through somebody else patiently squeezing a rubber bag in the correct rhythm, for hours at a time!

Just then a man came in, crying loudly in pain. He had accidentally poured boiling water on himself, and his body from his stomach down had suffered third degree burns. He was naked, having immediately rushed from his bathroom, and he was just covered with a blanket. Another bed was immediately brought out, and when he was laid on it I could see parts of his leg and part of his side, near the stomach, with the skin burned off. His anguished cries filled the room, and I did not even want to imagine the pain he was going through.

Then a big man came in. He had apparently been thrown off his motorbike, and his mouth and the knuckles of his right hand were bleeding.

Then a little girl was brought in, trembling in the arms of her weeping mother. The girl had been hit by a motorcycle while they were crossing the street, and she had sustained wounds in her hands, legs, and forehead.

Then about fifteen minutes of relative peace. The burned man had apparently been given anesthesia, or some pain-deadening substance had been applied on his burns. The room was relatively quiet, everybody just waiting for something, some medicine to be brought in or some relative to arrive.

Then a security guard approached the table where I was waiting for my own treatment, and where the doctor-in-charge was checking some records. “Shot wound”, the guard announced.

Immediately all available doctors, nurses, and other attendants rushed to the ER entrance, through which a big burly man, naked from the waist up and barefoot, came in carrying in his arms an equally big man, also half-naked, mouth open and with a bloodied handkerchief wrapped around the top of his head.

The wounded man had been shot in the head, along with a companion who was brought to another hospital.  The staff attended to him for about an hour, and finally left him with his half-naked friend so that they can go back to the other patients. From where I sat, I could see his stomach heaving mightily with his breathing.

Overhearing the conversations of the medical staff, I gathered that the man had been shot point blank, and that pieces of his brain were found on his trousers when he was brought in, and on the tricyle which was used to transport him to the ER.

After a while I heard loud wailing and cries of “Papa! You can make it! Fight for your life! Papa! Fight for your life! You can make it!” The man’s daughter, who looked to be only in her twenties, had arrived with another female relative. “You promised me you wouldn’t leave me, Papa! You promised me you wouldn’t leave me! Fight for your life! Please, Papa!”

After some minutes of crying and pleading loudly at the bedside of her father, the young woman and her companion approached the doctor who was again standing near me.

“He’ll make it, won’t he? He’ll make it”, she pleaded with the doctor. “I know he will. I have faith he will. He’s still breathing!”

The doctor calmly explained that the bullet had torn through the man’s brains, and finally said, “I cannot offer you false hope. Yes, he’s breathing, and his heart is beating. But there’s a 99 percent chance that he won’t make it.”

(To be continued…)



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