Lifeline

This is a true story with names changed.

The time: 2.00 pm. Noor Jehan smiles wryly and waves to her relatives as she is being wheeled into the operation theatre on a trolley. She is covered with a spotless white sheet, with only her face exposed. Her brother bends down and plants a kiss on her forehead…. “behen…tu bilkul theek ho jayegi….uparwalla hai na”…..and seems to suppress a lump that has suddenly build up inside his throat. Her husband gently squeezes her arm lovingly as the trolley passes him. Noor Jahan looks around to have a glimpse of her only child Ameena…a daughter of three…..she is sleeping peacefully in her granny’s arms. Her parents are standing at a distance…..tears welling up within. Noor Jehan, their 25 year old daughter is scheduled to undergo a complex surgery for a dreaded disease called portal hypertension…untreated….she will die sooner or later of blood vomiting and other complications. If the surgery goes well…they usually do….Noor Jehan will have a fresh lease of life…and shall be back to doing her motherly chores within a months time. Noor Jehan continues to gaze at the lovely face of her daughter till the doors of the OT complex finally shut close.

As she is transferred to the OT table….Noor is apprehensive. What if I die? A terrible panic grips her. “Doctor”…she addresses the chief anaesthetist….. “mujhe darr lag raha hai….mujhe kuchh hoga to nahi?”  The anaesthetist pats her on the head “Daro nahi….aakhen band kar lo aur so jaao”. As drug after drug is pushed into her system….Noor begins to experience a peculiar lightheadedness….a sort of pleasurable feeling which seems to take away all her pains and miseries……she feels as if she is floating in air…..smiling faces of her brother, husband, mother, father all looking up to her….and her daughter…..who wakes up and softly calls out ‘Ammi…..’…. Noor desperately reaches out to touch her tiny fingers… too late. Noor is blacked out. Her respiration is taken over by a ventilator.

The surgical team (three surgeons – Chief and two associate surgeons) splits her open with clinical precision. Thick worm like blood vessels obstruct the course of incisions…one gets punctured in the process…a whooshing jet of crimson shoots out of Noor and lands on the tiled floor a few feet away…such is the pressure within them. The haemorrhage is quickly controlled….there is an uneasy calm in the OT…..just the blip…blip….blip…..of the multiple monitors attached to Noor and the monotonous low intensity whack….whoooosh….whack…..whoooosh of the ventilator. “Everything under control?” Chief enquires. “Right boss….ECG normal….urine output normal…..BP 107/74…..oxygen saturation 100….ABG normal….the intensivist reels off the relevant data…

Four hours have passed since the surgery began. Noor’s father, brother and husband offer the evening Namaaz outside the OT complex itself. Amina has meanwhile woken up and is busy observing how the nurses push injections into the patients…something she finds secretly amusing. She has already enquired thrice the whereabouts of her Ammi…and no one had answered her so far….Inside, the docs take a short break. Stretch…change their gloves…five minutes. The nursing supervisor in the OT offers a sip of water for all…the offer is universally declined…”Case ke baad…abhi theek hai”. The most crucial phase of the surgery begins. A thick vein from the spleen is about to be joined with a vein from the kidney. Everyone….except the Chief has to stand absolutely still for the next hour or so…holding the organs in suitable positions to facilitate the final anastomosis. The sutures that would sew the two veins together are thinner than human hair. There are hundreds of them. One wrong move… a small tangle….. a tiny knot…… an inadvertent slip or a jerky movement will ruin the surgery…everyone takes a deep breath and the suturing begins…..

8.00 PM – the surgery is over….the anastomosis has been picture perfect. Noor’s portal blood under extreme pressure is now finding a free run inside her circulation….it couldn’t have been done better…..some lighthearted banter is exchanged to ease off the tension as the recovery from anaesthesia gets underway…minutes later…Noor opens her eyes. “Theek ho…?” She slightly tilts her head to one side. All her parameters are normal. There is palpable relief all around. News seeps out somehow…..Noors brother and husband hug each other.

Noor comes out on the same trolley. She is extremely weak and dazed from the rigour of a long ordeal…still manages to nod her head …..Ameena is overjoyed to see her mother back…though she is unable to understand why everybody is weeping. Noor is taken to the ICU.      

8.30 PM – Noor complains of shivering…the intensivist glances up the monitors…everything fine….then suddenly the ECG gives an inexplicable jerk…Noor appears to shudder a little…and suddenly heaves her chest up in agony…her eyes literally bulge out and a gasp escapes her lips….Noor has suffered a massive cardiac arrest. The resuscitation team wastes no time to start CPR…blow after blow is given to kickstart her heart….the cardiologists rush in and institute DC cardioversion…one shock….then another…and another…all life saving injectables are exhausted…..there are another mad round after round of CPR…but all in vain…..the heart quivers….makes a last effort to break free of its shackles….then slumps into an occasional flicker only to die out gradually. Noor’s half closed eyes appear shocked at this queer quirk of cruel fate. Some time later….wails are heard outside the OT. The doc who broke the news slumps into a chair. Everyone in the ICU is numb, dumbfounded.

Noor is wheeled out. This time she is covered from head to toe in another spotless white sheet. Ameena cries out in joy….“Ammi aati…Ammi aati”

Life is uncertain. Live it. Love it.

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1 Comment on this article. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Varsha December 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm -

    Sad….I particularly hate to see young patients die…….

    Life is so damn uncertain……