Tuesday, November 24, 2009

funny, death

i'm not comfortable with death. i usually meet it at the end of some life disaster like a car accident, a gunshot wound or a devastating cancer. the going gentle into that dark night i don't see too often. i suppose that's more the realm of the internists?

recently i had the pleasure of going to school reunions and seeing old friends that i hadn't seen in quite a number of years. more than one noted that i had changed beyond recognition, not physically but in some other way. i wondered what they were on about. in the end i decided it had something to do with my job. somehow it makes one see things differently.

i remember an old friend telling me his sister had stated that there was going to be a major change in her life on her birthday. he was hoping she would stop selling cigarettes (she worked in a cafe). i somehow thought that that just didn't seem like such a major change. the friend was excited. i was apprehensive. the major changes i see in people's lives tend to be pretty major. sometimes they don't survive.

sure enough, her birthday arrived. they found her in her house with a bullet through her brain. it was a major change she had brought about in her life all right. and i suppose she was also not going to sell cigarettes any more.

recently i came across a post talking about american surgeons. i think that is actually sort of what i'm speaking about. in the end we can't be totally normal. some of us will cut ourselves off from the human experience and become hard and callous. some of us will become exhausted by it all and burn out or become depressed. some of us will see things differently and become unrecognisable to our old school friends.

in the end i try to remind myself of the privilege that has been afforded to me to be able to meet with people in those critical moments in their lives when everything becomes horrendously vivid and the irrelevant things in life quietly fade away into the wings.

6 comments:

Jabulani said...

A history of over 25yrs, leads me to agree with your friends.

However, it's not only surgeons who alter. Life experiences have a way of changing, or remoulding, many of us, so that those school friends we may later meet, might no longer recognise the person we once were. Often the change is not necessarily a positive one.

rlbates said...

Bongi, I had a similar experience when I attended my 20 high school reunion (nearly 15 yrs ago now). I was nominated for both "most changed" and "least changed." I actually look pretty much like I did in high school (a few more wrinkles, but who's counting). It was the other changes that surprised my old classmates.

Moofie said...

Bongi, that was really moving. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

Bongi, As someone for whom healthcare is a second career, my priorities have changed. I must make the effort to keep up a life outside of this - and the effort will be all mine. Old friends? It is like I am looking out of my new world at them, and they are trying to get a glimpse of me inside my new world. It's a different dimension in time and space.

-SCNS

Ivy said...

I am an Emergency medicine doc and I often think that sometimes I'm the last person that the patient sees before he dies and that thought has been bothering me a for while. I guess dealing is death is hard enough for ambulance crews, firefighters and police as well, or anybody who has ever seen somebody dead. But I think it's slightly different for us as we actually see it happening and we think we have the means to stop it and feel helpless when we don't. The patient is often still alive when he comes to us (even if hanging by a thread) and then the off button is pushed and the waveforms on the monitor change to a beeping line.

bathmate said...

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Bathmate