Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Any questions?

"Sir, what's the prognosis?"

We all looked up from our notebooks. Some of us had finished taking notes, some stopped midway in their sentences. As an intimation that it was time to end the morning clinic, our professor had asked if we had any questions. Sir looked at the boy who had raised the question, then at the boy whose tummy was our area of concern this morning, at his own hands, and then back at our curious friend.

A boy lay in front of us, scanning our faces as we listened, questioned, answered and made notes about him. Thankfully he couldn't understand our jargon. The boy had a tumour supposedly. Most of our surgery patients did. It wasn't a big deal. I was calm.
But when Sir answered, my tummy gave an uncomfortable twirl. I hadn't finished writing the radiotherapy details this boy was to get. I shut my notebook. I didn't want to finish. It didn't matter anymore, anyway.

"2 months." 60 days! Just 8 Sundays?

Only last evening we had first seen this 19 year old boy. Dark, thin, confident, calm. The moment I saw him, I was sure that the composure in his body language was new. Disease tends to do that to people. He lay on a bed in the surgery ward with a few scattered lumps in his abdomen. He gave thought to every question we asked him. We had made no efforts at hiding the fact we weren't professionals yet. We were random in our method, making complete fools of ourselves! We kept forgetting to check important things. So over and over, he had to take off his just buttoned up shirt. He was patient with us. We respected him for that. This boy did everything we asked him to, no matter how inconvenient.

And as we were leaving, his father came up to us. He wanted us to revisit his kid. The wards reeked of pain and misery. We had brought a change of air for his boy that evening. I nodded with smile. I loved his boy.

The morning after, as we discussed the boy with our professor, we slowly got to know his lumps. As the clock ticked away, the confident and articulate image of him was fast being replaced by one of a helpless kid with an equally helpless father.
We couldn't look into his eyes. Couldn't return his smile. We didn't want to face his father. What would we say to him when he asks us what our professor had to say?
One answer had changed it all. I bet the kid sensed the change in mood. We were too lost to feign anything to fool him. 

As we left the room, the usual babble amongst us was missing. Everyone walked out deep in thought. 

Since then, nobody has been curious when it came to patients' prognoses. Since then, nobody's ever had any questions!