Trigger Warning: This article talks in depth about death/loss, and serious medical conditions. Proceeding with due discretion is advised.
I thought I’d keep up with my fate of encountering the usual, monotonous days, with COVID-19 still dawdling in our lives. But life never fails to surprise me. I was left completely astounded as to the instances I came across recently. I am Neil Kachroo, a neurologist here at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Delhi. I never realised how I dedicated those 20 years of my life here. It feels like yesterday that I stepped into this mini-dimensional world I always longed to belong to.
I flipped through my patient records, realized it was packed tight with a busy schedule, with no breaks in between. First up— Mr. Brijesh Wadhwa. It has been quite a long journey with him. My consistent patient all this while, we have grown so close, he feels like immediate family now. I see my dad in him— I had to witness my father breathe his last in this very hospital. I lost him to a brain tumour. It was totally uncalled for, and it was inevitable for me to go into depression. Mr. Wadhwa suffering from the same medical condition makes me yearn for dad more. Only if I had been able to do something to extricate him out of his miseries. My constant assistance to Mr. Wadhwa’s condition compensates for my yearning heart’s desire to cure dad.
“Just the chemotherapy, Brijesh Uncle, and you will be better much sooner!” I did not want to provide him with false expectations, but as his gleaming eyes shone with hope, I couldn’t help but lie. His tumour was enlarging with time, and I feared chemotherapy might not be enough. His condition was deteriorating; he did not have much time left. I forever question as to how you ever inform a patient’s family that one of their beloved family members would be snatched away from them too soon.
“Krrish would be delighted to know! I just got on the phone with him today Neil beta, he is coming back from England after five long years. He just completed his graduation in Oxford. It seems like a millennium passed since the last time I saw him.” His voice glistened up at the mere thought of him meeting his son after half a decade. How could I possibly tell him about his plight? I decided to let it go for a while.
Krrish Wadhwa, a former patient of mine. He suffered from intracerebral haemorrhage as a kid. We performed the radiotherapy as soon as he was diagnosed. It wasn’t as secure as it is in adults. Radiotherapy at a young age could have side effects and might possibly end up damaging some tissues. I had warned Mr. Wadhwa about the same, but the current well-being of his child was more precious to him.
I prescribed the medicines to Mr. Wadhwa, and he strolled his way back home. I toiled away among the hospital facilities and patient check-ups. It was an exhausting day.
This was a month ago. I hadn’t heard from Brijesh Uncle in a long while, couldn’t even arrange to talk about Krrish or whether had he settled in and was comfortable enough. I resolved to surprise him with a visit in the evening and bought a watch for Krrish as a graduation gift and a bouquet for Mrs. Wadhwa.
Ring went the bell, and she did not answer the door. I pressed the bell several times, and Mrs. Wadhwa came out, but she didn’t seem fine. Her eyes were drenched with tears, eye bags had developed under her perfectly brown eyeballs, and her hair was completely messed up. She, for some reason, looked sleep-deprived. I was so still that the bouquet dropped, and I didn’t care. All I knew was that something was wrong, and I had to help Mrs. Wadhwa back to her bed.
“Here, have this glass of water.” I helped her into the gigantic bedroom. Mr. Wadhwa was nowhere to be seen. Krrish’s room lay untouched, just as it had those five years ago.
“I was hoping to meet Brijesh Uncle tonight, it has been over a month since he came for his check-up.” I immediately went silent. I could sense how she was struggling to reply.
“He’s no more Neil.”
It felt like my world just blacked out. I could not think rationally for a while. I pinned my back against the wall, slid downwards, sat on the ground, and cupped my hands in order to hide my sobbing face. Somewhere around an hour passed, and there was complete silence in the room; it was silent to the extent that I could hear the crickets chirping from their yard.
“How- when-” I couldn’t help but ask, it had been whirling around my head since the past hour. Mrs. Wadhwa took a deep breath, wiped off her dripping tears and sat up straight, facing me. I felt guilty to ask, but I was crushed from within, it felt as if I lost dad all over again. But that’s when she decided to speak— “Krrish was returning from England after five long years, and Brijesh was exceedingly thrilled. He reached the airport to receive him when he heard his name called out in the announcements. The pilot, along with his team, stood beside Krrish’s lifeless body. He was told it was caused due to natural causes. We recently got to know Krrish was a victim of Pulmonary Fibrosis. The radiotherapy performed did have its side effects, Neil. It was just a call away— yet we couldn’t save him.” She burst into tears. I felt so helpless. There was possibly nothing I could say in order to pacify her.
But she continued- “Krrish hid it, he hid it well for those five years, the apparent reason he wouldn’t want to come to meet us. His friends called, gave their condolences and explained how he would vibrantly talk about his parents and how he cared for them to such extent he didn’t want them agitated, all distressed up. Brijesh was informed he gasped for air in the aeroplane on his way back, he hadn’t carried his oxygen cylinder, just his pump, and the crew didn’t understand how to help. There was panic, and it was just within a matter of a few minutes that he breathed his last.” Her eyes became watery again. I brought her a glass of water. I stood there, with my completely dismayed face, patting her back.
“Brijesh couldn’t accept the fact that we had lost our only son, our only ray of hope. His situation worsened with every passing day— loss of appetite, weakness, hallucinations, delirium. Yet, he wouldn’t go for his check-up. It seemed like he had given up his desire to live. One cold morning, I went to wake him up. It was quite unusual since he would get up on his own every day, but just this once, I went. I called out to him, and he didn’t respond. I shook him up, rolled his body over and then a thought struck my mind, one which I wasn’t willing to accept. Brijesh wasn’t breathing.”
I didn’t interrogate her further. I realised she needed some time alone to herself, so I decided to bid goodbye to my second home— a house I had considered my own and where I had a family. While leaving, I left that watch on Krrish’s table. I found that fallen bouquet on the entrance. It wasn’t there for long, but for some reason, the flowers had all withered, twirled up. I softly placed it in the perfectly lit up yard with fireflies.
My mental health was disturbed for some weeks. I couldn’t sleep properly, didn’t feel like eating, my work was the only activity that kept me going through life. I had steadily started to perceive life as very unpredictable, and I had accepted it. But along the way, I realized I couldn’t compromise my mental well-being. Death in one’s life is inevitable. The sooner we come to accept that, the better.
These instances have motivated me to embrace life. I have started to distance myself from the people in my life, as the closer I grow to them, the stronger my feeling that they will end up in some misfortune. But I have been taking therapy sessions. It has really helped me recover from my past. I take care of myself now, call the people in my life often, and frequently check upon them. I try to be there for them. Remind them how I am just a call away.
– Suvangana Aulyaman, Delhi Public School, Noida5 Likes