Sunday, April 26, 2015

Life as a medical student #9 About Death

Every doctor will experience the loss of a patient at some point of time. Some of the patients will fade peacefully. Others will fight until their last breath. Some plan their funerals, others plan a future they won't have. However, nothing in medical school prepares us for dealing with death. In my third year of medical school, I experienced my first patient death. 

On the last day of my surgery rotation in HKL, I met a lady with both of her legs amputated. Yes it was her. I wrote about her story on my blog few weeks back (You can read about it here). I fulfilled my promise and went back to her on Monday, but she was too tired and weak to have much to say to me. The amount of analgesics used on her was so huge that it made her drowsy. And for the rest of the week, other than sitting by her bed and waited, I couldn't do anything else. When I returned to the hospital after another weekend, she was not doing well. Her condition deteriorated. More and more infection. She could no longer undergo dialysis. The nurses told me her wound was not going to heal. The doctors told me her prognosis was bad. My heart sank. 

On that day, I had a long talk with her mother. Her mother told me how her daughter struggled with her health despite her young age, and she showed me a video of her daughter happily spending time with her family just few months ago. Then everything just happened, so fast and unexpected. She told me how much she didn't want to lose her precious daughter. I was on the verge of tears as I held her hands and said: ''Aunty, remember to stay strong and take good care of yourself.'' 

When I went to find the lady on the next morning, she was no longer there. A nurse told me that she had died last night.

I stood there, realizing that this was supposed to be a meaningful moment, yet I didn't feel anything. I didn't cry. I don't know why but it was not as emotionally difficult as I anticipated. I was pretty calm, maybe because the outcome was expected. Or maybe, I had no right to mourn a patient that I'd only met for weeks. I was merely a passer-by in her life. It was short, but I am glad that our paths crossed.

Does increased exposure to death as a doctor going to ease the pain, does death ever get easier? I don't know. But doctors are human too. We are frail. We should be allowed to feel.

I said my goodbye to her in my head as I left the ward. 

''I hope you had a wonderful life.''


  1. I hope you are feeling okay Eunice. Cheer up!

  2. This really is sad! :/ I pity the lady so much! But this is how the world runs.... It's unfair to everyone...
    Stay strong!


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