I’ve Witnessed Hundreds of Deaths in The Past Year
Each one of them has induced eye-opening self-talk about mortality — of my own, and my close ones.
Trigger Warning: Death, Child Death, Pregnancy Loss
It started with a pregnant woman who died with the baby still in her womb. I was posted in the Forensic Medicine department of my med school and my professor had been asked to conduct an autopsy on the deceased. Her body was opened up. Her organs were removed and sent for post-mortem analysis, and her child was kept in a large jar filled with formalin.
Then there was this outrageous alcoholic who was admitted to the ICU. His eyes were an intense hue of yellow — as a result of jaundice due to the overwhelming abuse of his livers. His family members signed a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate Consent) and I watched him take his final labored breaths. Each one of them said that he was dying. The last one said that he was dead.
This one time, one of my colleagues rushed a patient to the ICU from the ward while compressing his chest in an attempt to resuscitate him. He had collapsed right after smoking a cigarette and dropping a deuce in the hospital washroom. I could not feel his pulse so I asked the sister to push a dose of adrenaline. As my colleague got tired, I took over and compressed his chest repeatedly. I heard his ribs cracking, but not the sound of him breathing. After many more minutes of trying to resuscitate him, we took an ECG… it showed a flat line.
Another time, this 4-year-old child was brought by his parents with severe pneumonia at 3 AM. Every single one of his breaths was accompanied by a horrific screechy sound. He had multiple chest retractions. My professor immediately intubated him and counseled the parents that their child’s life was at risk. I was asked to monitor him all night as I saw his condition worsening. In the morning as my shift ended, I went home to get some sleep. I woke up in the afternoon… only to find out he did not.
In addition to these, there were countless other deaths. Some of them left me disturbed for a day or two. And many others, my subconscious mind wrote them off as “just something that happens in hospitals.” With each death that I…