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Those 72 hours…

By: Asim Patnaik
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“We had to remove a major part of his bowel, else it would have been … ” – said the surgeon soon after he came out of the OT. We all were eager to know more as to ‘kab, kaise aur kyon’.. As the surgeon was answering our inquisitive questions, two assistant doctors came out with the tray. Everyone was stunned to silence. I took a couple of steps forward to have a closer look. I was curious to know how he could fit in such a massive piece of meat inside him. It was huge. If cooked, that piece could feed a whole hamlet for a week.

“How is he? I mean …” – I stuttered. Deep down, I really wanted to know if he would survive. “He has to fight his way through. The next 72 hours are critical. Let us see his progress.” – said the surgeon as he left us with his assistants, following the cue some of us left after few mins of QnA. It was midnight, Anil and I volunteered to stay overnight. We found place to sit in the hospital lounge.

“Yaar, will he survive?” – I asked. Anil looked cool and calm as usual. “Relax. You think a lot”- he said. I have been a curious soul all my life and I had so many questions. “Who knows, he may be already dead. Do you think one will really survive after you remove everything that is there inside the stomach?” – he continued in a jovial manner, trying to ease the stress. A long silence ensued. “If he dies, I will take his car. You take his apartment. His wife and daughter will have a lavish and happy life with whatever is left after this chap has departed. He has made enough fortune.” – I said. Anil and I burst into a loud laughter waking up other attendants sleeping in the lounge. We quietly left the lounge pretending to be innocent. We walked to the parking lot as we joked. We sat in Anil’s car for that night. Anil quickly fell asleep, I couldn’t and waited for dawn. There were  a million thoughts creating commotion within me as the mosquitoes continued raining love bites on me with Anil’s romantic snores playing in the background.

I reached home at 8 AM. My wife was just done with her morning puja and was preparing breakfast. “How is he now?” – she asked. “We have started working on his will already. Can you suggest what we should inherit?” – I quipped. “Please be serious. That wasn’t funny. Get lost” – she screamed with anger almost flinging the bowl at me. “You almost killed me” – I exclaimed. As she quietly said her prayers in the kitchen asking for his wellbeing and praying God to forgive me, I hit the bed to get some much needed rest.

That afternoon, I talked to a few doctors in my family to discuss his case. All had one common thing to say – he will have a lot of restrictions, he will have to be on medication for the rest of his life, can’t eat and drink what he wants, etc. His life will be really tough. They fell short of telling that his life would be hell. His surgeon’s views on this corroborated my fears. As he lay unconscious in the ICU, a million prayed for his survival unware what his life would be. While some prayed for the father he was, some prayed for the husband and some for the son. I had only one question in my mind – “Is life worth if you have to die every moment?” And so I started my prayer – if his life will be as all the doctors say, I would want the Supreme to take him away and give him a happy afterlife assuming it exists. He doesn’t deserve to die every moment for the sake of his daughter, wife or parents.

Nearly 24 hours passed, he gained consciousness. Our curiosity and excitement to meet him couldn’t be explained as we walked into the ICU. He lay quiet and calm on the bed as a bunch of monitors displayed his various health parameters. He turned to us and probably wanted to smile but lacked the strength. We smiled back at him. “Kaisaa hai re”- I asked. Anil winked at him and said – “Not bad. Quite a few hot nurses around. I’m sure you won’t want to leave the ICU ever”. I laughed. He uttered his favourite cuss word in a soft voice. Anil and I laughed as he struggled to barely smile . Anil showed him a pic of his that was clicked when he lay unconscious and naked in the emergency ward. “This will be your obituary pic. You came to this world naked and will go back naked too.” – said Anil. I laughed out loud but had to control it as few nurses signaled at us saying that we were disturbing the other patients in the ICU. Still giggling, I went close to him and spoke in a soft voice – “Jaya got promoted. She’s senior to you now. Once you are back in office, you will be taking her orders”. He wasn’t happy to hear the news and that showed on the monitors. A nurse came rushing to us and asked what we told him. “I just told him that he has got a good hike this year” – I replied. “Good. Please share only good things with him” – said the nurse with a typical Malayalam accent. I turned to him and heard him utter a cuss word again.

More than 48 hours later, he was recovering well. The next visit to the ICU went well. This time he was off his few life support gadgets and had enough strength to swear at us. He welcomed us with his favourite cuss word and a smile. As we talked, he gave us details of how many had died in the last 48 hours ever since he made it to the ICU. We had a good laugh for few mins before the visiting doctor came to see him with the latest reports.

The doctor broke the news to us outside the ICU. It wasn’t a pleasant one. The toxin levels in his blood were on the rise. They saw symptoms of multiple organ failure. While the doctor said that these were side effects post a major surgery, but in his case it was a bit serious. Our prayers ran in parallel to the discussions with the doctor. “The next set of tests will be done few hours later. We will keep you updated. We are doing our best” – assured the doctor as he left.

As we inched closer to the 72 hour deadline, every second started becoming longer. It was dusk when the latest reports came. We literally ‘gheraoed’ the doctor before he entered the ICU. We wanted to know the details. “The news isn’t good. His parameters aren’t encouraging. He’s sinking “ – said the doctor as he made his way through us to enter the ICU. The ever vibrant and active guy that I knew lay still on the ICU bed. But he was breathing. I wanted to hold his hand and was ready to see him off forever. The thought of never seeing him again around was killing me from within. But I was prepared. I had to let him go. We all had to. As he sunk slowly into a deeper sleep, the doctors did their best to revive him. His heartbeat slowed down gradually and then there was the long beep from the monitor …

He braked, which woke me up with a jerk. “Oye, you almost rammed into the truck” –  I screamed. He reacted with his favourite cuss word and remarked in a cocky manner – “I know my driving, I’m a pro”.

Guess this miserly soul survived that fateful night against all odds and (Un)fortunately, I had to buy my own and he was driving home my new car from the showroom.😊 😊

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