Saturday, May 4, 2013

Three Men and a Ghost

The ghost bought the appliances and lamp when alive.

This is a tale about Transition, and how men I have witnessed faced change before my eyes.

The first one I met was tiny. Built my size, and I looked him in the eye. He was very protective of his spouse who was in labor. She had a 'low threshold to pain' and epidural placement was technically difficult due to the nature of 'other things going on' medically. It worked. She was happy. When I went in to check, his kindness surprised me. He gestured to the bedside table and said, 'We have bought a chai tea for you.'  I was delighted at the thoughtfulness and concern for my well-being. It was a first, and I let them know.

Lesson Gained: men who are experiencing testosterone surges and kind of oppositional can turn around and be kind too. My son is like that. I thought men grew out of it; that is not true! I guess that is a good thing. (BTW I can make real chai tea at home. One of my attendings from Chennai taught me.)

The second one had a handshake I will never forget--a worker's hand and a glance in his eye that told it all. I remember the couple from several years ago. That child has since passed away. The look in his eyes of being in a c-section again gave me a window to the depths of his soul. He did not want to watch the birth, which was uncommon, but happens. During the delivery, I saw him praying. I felt it. I was praying too. We all were. Everyone wanted this time to be a time of joy and Light, and together we worked to make that happen. We know. We understand. And we care.

The last man had to see us go into full 'medical' mode unexpectedly. We rushed to surgery. I have been in c-sections since 1994. I have seen many couples. I have even seen the man who, while the surgeon was up to his elbow in the uterus, ask his wife, 'Hey, babe? You hungry? Do you want a sandwich?'

Never before have I seen a man 'get it'. His care and compassion for his wife 'going through all this' humbled me. And when the baby cried, tears of joy and relief ran down his face. I had to give HIM tissues. And also I dabbed at the tears of joy on his wife.  His emotions were functioning perfectly, in real time, and his behavior was appropriate. Whatever his mother did that raised him, she certainly did something right.

Well, where is the ghost?

He was everywhere. He was the colleague who was forced into retirement and I was his replacement. He died last Sunday.

See that room? That is where he LIVED. We used to wonder why he took call so much, for weeks at a time! Didn't his family want him? Did he hate his wife? We all knew he was married. He was in his seventies, with reason to retire based on his clinical performance. But he didn't want to go. He thought it was political conspiracy. I went to his party. I got to know him when he would come back and visit. He was a very nice man.

The last I saw him was in pre-op holding before his surgery for his open elbow fracture. He liked to ride his bike from his home to the beach and go on the boardwalk. The little nurse who was Vietnamese like him chided him for not being safe. She told him to drive the bike to the beach and then ride. She was right.

I heard he had cancer. Next I heard he died. While I was putting in an epidural in room three, I saw him watching me. Feet were three feet above the ground--he made it through Transition. He said, as I worked, he had no idea what had been going on with my professional life, and why I came, and how hard it is to be a single mother. He respected me for that, he said. He also said I did good work in taking care of the patients. That meant a lot to me.

This morning, I told Maria, the housekeeper who cleans the call room. I started by telling her about the drama and the sections and what I saw. I call her 'mama' and she is always nice. When others have the flu she cleans the room extra for me so I won't catch it. Then I shared about the bad news.

He called her 'Chica'. Every day he bought her either breakfast or lunch. He said he was divorced. Sometimes he would ask her to clean the room early. He had friends coming to visit. It was always a woman, dressed very nice, young, with big 'tetas'. They would stay in the room together, alone.

She saw this, and confronted him, 'She is too young for you. What is going on between you? Nothing is for free!' and showed me how she rubbed her fingers, accusing him of hiring a prostitute. He asked for her discretion, which she promised him. The only one she ever told was me, after he was dead.

He said he was living in one house and his ex-wife in the other, and asked, 'Chica' to come clean his house. She said, 'It depends on the house and how much you pay, otherwise I just work here.' She never went to clean his house.

I sense the old OB anesthesiologist is smiling right now. He says, 'I had a good story. I want to tell it. Thank you for remembering me. Let them know I was 78 when I died, and that four years ago I was still a hit with the ladies! I was married in our community, but it was of convenience, because in our culture we do not divorce. I had a good life, I lived it, and now I am done. Aloha to all of you readers--thank you for listening to my story and learning about life as it is in the Big Leagues.' Triet P, The Old Man

We used to call him that. The Old Man. He was the one that made raising a child possible while doing OB anesthesia. He used to cover for my colleagues who had small children from five until nine every night so they could go have dinner with their family and put the kids to bed. 

He will be missed.

I am lucky to have had the chance to see deep in the hearts of four men. I learned so very much from it. I am a better person today than I was one day ago.


Reiki Doc