Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes Clichés Are So Untrue

I remember once while writing something, I used a clichéd sentence. I followed the sentence with another adage: clichés are oft repeated truths. The latter sentence was me at my defensive best. I have done this several times while talking to people, comforting people, reassuring people, I have used my own fair share of clichés. Like, time will heal, the weight of our cross will never be heavier than us, If you love, let it go...if it’s meant to be it will come back. Lines like this. But each time I have used it or said it or tweaked it a bit, I have always believed it and meant it. All of it was true and genuine under most circumstances. But sometimes life just proves otherwise. Some clichés are untrue. Like the time I told a dear friend,“ This sorrow/loss will strengthen you dear, for something in the future.”, Just when I heard myself say it then, I knew there was something wrong, it didn’t convince me either. The sentence lacked the lustre of my otherwise steadfast faith in oft repeated truths aka clichés. But it was too late the words had already left my tongue and it floated in the air and placed itself on her ear. She looked up at me. I saw it in her eyes that I had blundered in the name of solace. She looked at me with eyes wrought with disappointment, “you are my friend, and you still don’t understand, do you?”
Zerene, my friend was a dedicated gynaecologist who was rewarded with an enviable practice and nearly perfect record of happy patients to her list. But that was no surprise to us. For she never compromised on her work or her dedication. She wore her heart on her sleeves for the ‘girls’, like she called them. She almost became their mothers. She had the uncanny ability to see them, the girls as her own. That was her professionalism. Contrary to her friend’s advice “Zerene detach yourself from the moment, be professional.”
Like every doctor who at some point in their practice reaches a state of Buddha, like I would like to call it. Her enlightenment did come as well. As a rude shock and the toughest reality check; that of losing one her ‘girls’. Just like that. Not even in the labour room, or in operation theatre. Just like that, after dinner and after quietly relishing some payasam her husband brought her. They called it embolism.
{(Amniotic fluid embolism AFE) is a rare and incompletely understood obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid, foetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the uterus and triggers an allergic reaction. This reaction then results in cardio respiratory (heart and lung) collapse and coagulopathy}
It didn’t take much time or large quantities of fluid, I am told. Everything happened in minutes and in teeny weenie measure trickling into her bloodstream, for no reason other than just like that. By the time Zerene arrived, it had been minutes that the girl’s heart had stopped beating. But Zerene quickly checked for the foetal heartbeat. The baby was alive and then and there Zerene took the baby out. The baby is well and ready to be fed. But there is no mother.
She did everything she could possibly do. Like Faizal always says. She is at her best during a crisis. Working efficiently. It usually takes few days for it to sink in. But this time Zerene just withdrew. For the next day the girl’s husband came to see her to apologise for his entire family, if in case anyone of them had unknowingly accused her of anything. Also to thank her for saving the baby in time. Zerene just remained emotionless. I knew that look. I knew it was the calm before the storm. So I quickly went to her and she collapsed to a heap. Her sense of loss was deep. She kept replaying the entire day, entire week, if somewhere she could’ve done something differently. She wondered if she should’ve tried more at resuscitating her girl. She wondered if she made right choice of going for the baby than spending more effort on the mother. She played the reel again and again and again. It was painful to watch. That was when I told her, “ Zerene, take this as something to strengthen you.” A cliché, like the several I have used before. But Zerene from the depth of the abyss, I thought she was pushing herself into. I heard her talk as if she was crying out from a deep well. Weak but firm. “This does not strengthen me Shalini. This weakens me. I am resigned now. I am resigned to the fact that as a doctor, I am just hands. He is in charge of giving and taking away. I am nothing.” And then she added, “ I exalt in my weakness.”
So that day I learned a new truth. Some things weaken you. And in being weak there is strength. So let it be.


kleinzonnetje said...

As a Christian, and as someone who suffered an Amniotic Fluid Embolism, this post touched me in many ways. The truth of accepting your weakness while knowing God's amazing strength and the strength that this gives to you is something I have had to learn many many times in the four years since my daughter was born.

jekob said...

Pain offers a transition to a higher understanding and the highest peak of this is the knowledge that it is all about HIM and I only have to yield, for a maximum impact.

John said...

Yes, all cliches are not truths; in fact cliches are hardly truths. They are approximations. They always miss the nuances. Your friend's story is touching, well said.

nilu said...

Touching and very well written shalu. Good to see you posting more on the blog

josh said...

Well put, Shalini. Life humbles us in many ways. Till the eternal spirit within us helps us rise.. You friend is blessed with wisdom over knowledge. Keep writing. For, these are records of life's most illumined moments.

Amrita said...

Dear Shalini, you are very gifted writer.

Thi s is beautifully written post an d I appreciate the lesson ot entails.

My heart goes out for Zerene an d the bereaved family.
I am such sh e did her very best, but doctors have to submit to Higher Authority.

We read so many cases of medical neglect, but this was not so. And the sorrowing family accepted it. Here family and friends unleash their anger on hospital property and staff , sometimes when their loved one dies.