The moon is so bright tonight it is hiding the stars, the sky covered in a pearlescent sheen. It was looking at that cold bright sky tonight, with my eyes blinded by tears that I decided I will never be a surgeon. I could not treat someone as an organ to be sliced and managed, and then passed on when there is nothing left to cut.
I had to make a call tonight, to a girl who is still young enough to be at school and ask her to come to the hospital. I explained as carefully and as gently as I could that her mother had started to deteriorate and that she needed to come to the hospital. I listened to the frank fear in her voice as she understood immediately the implications of the calm words coming out of my mouth in my gentle voice. And it was the hitch in her voice that had my own vision swimming and swallowing hard. That trembled my gentlest voice and made me angry at myself for still not being able to do this without staying professional. To be calm for her.
I had had the same chat with her Dad and her brother, explaining to them that their world, already grey and miserable had started to hail down around them. Raised my voice to be heard over the massive thundering blows that were rocking them where they sat. And as I wrapped up that horrible meeting, with tears in my own eyes and started on the paperwork that goes with something like that, the surgeon that operated on her walked onto the ward. Glancing at the paperwork I was filling out he intoned how sad it was, before turning his attention to another scan, another tumour, another operation. Next.
I felt so disillusioned sitting there, my neat handwriting filling a sheet of progress notes to document what I'd said and what the Palliative Care team had said. When I had never cut her, had not poked around inside her body, had done nothing but care for the shell that was left after the cancer had been scooped out like a hellish icecream. I was not the one who admitted her to hospital, had not explained to her family what was going on. And yet I was the harbringer of death.
I looked at the clock then and realised I was late for the meeting for the Monkey's school orientation session and I swallowed hard, blinked and signed my name under the notes. Other doctors working with me whisking paperwork out of my hands and shooing me out the door knowing that I had needed to be somewhere else while I stubbornly insisted on seeing it through. Knowing that I could be late to the meeting, but that this, this was something that needed to be done properly. Not as an afterthought, not a careless "oh that's sad" but properly. She will only die once, and I don't want it to be thoughtlessly.
And as I looked at the silvery moon, and the almost oily sky, and couldn't see my star, I trembled a little and vowed that I would never be like that. That I would never ever be that person that does not want to be involved at that time. I've been told variously that I would make a brilliant surgeon and that I never could be one. My hand eye coordination is excellent. I am meticulous and driven and pedantic. I am organised and methodical and I have an understanding that means that I would make a great surgeon. Those are not my words, they are transcripts from references that I have in my possession.
But all of that means nothing to me if how I am defined is in the scars that I leave on my patients and their families. I can't have that as the silhouette that chases me on a moonlit night as I leave in the cold and dark, my breath fogging around my face as I cry.