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Anna Santos
Have you ever argued with your thoughts? Did you feel like every decision you are about to take warrants a counter-reaction more destructive than before? Just because you are a physician, did you ever think you are so sure of yourself so arrogantly that you can keep your cool and strong enough to doctor your own relative's battle against the grim reaper we called DEATH? It happened to me three months ago; the gruesome truth left me barefaced. I was thrown out of the sizzling lava, remained blankly motionless, and thawed like there’s a nuclear meltdown.

“Ate, nahirapang huminga si Gladys” (sis, Gladys have difficulty breathing). These were my brother’s worried words as he tried to search for understanding on his wife’s fatal situation. His tensed voice and uncontrollably trembling hands were the unspoken gestures of how much he cares for her. When I saw him nearly bursting to tears, desperately clinging on for hope for his wife and their first born, never knowing what to do nor what to expect, I felt a humongous burden in my chest. I never thought I couldn’t handle the sight of him pacing the corridors back and forth, treading the nursery ICU seeking comfort from his newborn, then back to the room, then to the prayer chapel, then back to the room again. His eyes unable to fix mine, and with restrained emotions he tried to conceal it with casual talks. This wasn’t the cheerful and comical Allen I know, and it just ripped my heart apart to see him so lost and exhausted.

My sister-in-law successfully delivered to a preterm baby girl. Though her infant was placed in the incubator due to prematurity, everybody thought she would be discharged right away. However, two days after that normal delivery, she began to bleed profusely. Worst, her OB-GYN went out-of-town for a convention. What's more? She was left under my care as the internist. Yes... me, her husband's sister. And in that terrifying night, something went wrong...

Less than 16 hours of intermittent blood losses, she gradually deteriorated. Her blood counts dropped so low, she had no blood pressure, no urine output, and her skin was as cold and pale as dead (hypothermia). Her eyes turned yellow (jaundice), and her abdomen bloated. No matter how much we ordered for stat laboratories, boluses of emergency drugs, fast dripping of fluid challenges, and ASAP request for blood transfusions (whole blood, FFP, platelets), there were new episodes arising every hour like cliff-hanging chapters of events waiting to unveil its scene in just a moment.

As test results arrived one after another, I stared and stared in disbelief. I was facing a stormy battle for her life. Findings showed sepsis (a blood infection) and DIC (a blood clotting problem). I tried to keep my cool but being a doctor doesn’t help me from harboring unwanted thoughts knowing its pathophysiology, or the disease progression. She was in impending shock and coma and I know her shallow breathing entailed possible ventilator, her status… an ICU settings. The decreasing urine output might lead her to dialysis and low blood counts may bleed her to death . I have to be one step ahead. Because one false move, one second short, few minutes delayed on rescue treatment, she might then be irreversible. It dawned on me that a lot of women with this condition did not survive due to delayed recognition of a fatal encounter. What if she dies? What will happen to my brother and my niece? I don’t want to regret this for the rest of my life. For the first time, I got scared.

Maybe the priests can be a priest to their own family. And lawyers can be a lawyer to their own brood without hesitation. But can doctors deal the life of their own bloodline? I don’t know. Perhaps, that’s why the Oath of Hippocrates was made.


(TO BE CONTINUED…. read on and click When Life is A Relative - Part II)
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5 Responses
  1. Haah! what a life! buti na lang di ako nagdoctor at least di ko yan kelangan pagdaanan... but when my mom had her first stroke, there goes our instinct... Maybe because science and medical background is in my blood, I acted as if i am a nurse and I even have more knowledge than any intern during that time... They even don't know the right way to change beddings with a patient lying in... And I can even recite all the generic names of her medicines in one blow... which I learned also that if one a person will be so focused, he can do it... I am an engineer by profession but if duty calls I can be a nurse, caregiver, janitor, whatever... hahahhaha... for my family... Teka.. bakit ba napunta sa akin ang usapan... Hayz... I wish your sister-in-law will be well... hoping for her speedy recovery... Be strong! I know you can do it! One doesn't need to be a doctor first to be effective... I know you already are... kaya mo yan, kaw pa!


  2. Petit Says:

    @ exprosiac - well, 2nd part of this post showed the continuation.yes thank you. been strong too.

    it seems like your adrenalin is on the rush when your family had one too huh? true you become sharp because there should be no room for errors... this is life we are dealing.

    that's why if a relative of my patient becomes so toxic in front of me, i'll just have to understand and wait till they sobered.


  3. MaWhit Says:

    Oh, how very difficult. I wish you much healing and peace.


  4. kristine Says:

    TWO THUMBS UP!!!... i don't have to read all over the stories doki... hahhahaha i know the story kc nakwento mo yan sa kin.. and amazingly it was a JOB WELL done... its not really easy to handle the best of two worlds... ("your job/calling and at the same time a family member")... i too had been into that situation but the only difference is you have the heavier responsibility since i am a nurse and you are?? A Doctor!.. hahahah I salute you doc! its quite a story worthy to be remembered.... I just love hangin' around with you.... Thanks for the fun times and the lessons learned everytime we were together! (emote!) char!


  5. PETIT Says:

    @ Ma Whit: we are already fine. Part II of this series said it all. thanks for dropping.

    @ Kristine: oh well, i know you knew this .... i enjoyed every bit of hanging out with you. learned a lot too...


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