“Beep beep” !
The sound of my mobile startled me out of deep concentration I had managed for a few minutes reading through the latest trends in the treatment of Myocardial Ischemia. I looked up at the clock on the wall. 11:00 PM. I sighed as I closed the book and stood up for yet another round. The bi-weekly night shifts weren’t my favorite. But being a resident in a hospital had its drawbacks. Resigning to my fate, I picked up the stethoscope and stepped out of the duty-room into the Intensive Care Unit.
The I.C.U. seemed the calmest place on earth. Except for the continuous but rhythmic beeps of machines, there was not a sound to be heard. Each cubicle looked tranquil as I passed by them. But as I neared cubicle # 8, I could perceive sounds which seemed to break the patterns of beeps around. I remembered that the cubicle was occupied by the once famous business tycoon of the city who was admitted a couple of days back for breathlessness and chest pain. The man was no less than 85 years old.
Stepping into the glass walled cubicle, I saw the old man wincing and moaning in obvious pain.
“Pneumonia in old age is lethal. This doesn’t look good.” I thought.
“Are you having some trouble ?” I asked the old patient, looking at the vitals on the monitor and hardly expecting a reply.
“Uhh… huh… Can you give me something for the pain ?” The old man’s voice was so frail, I hardly heard it.
I turned towards the patient. The elderly patient was looking at me with tired eyes and a half open mouth which seemed to want to speak, but couldn’t.
“I’ll just give you an injection. That’ll ease the pain and help you sleep.” I said with the slightest smile. I could feel the old man’s eyes on myself as I prepared the dose. The man winced once more as the needle entered the skin. But then seemed to ease up.
As I discarded the used syringe, I turned back to look at the old man. The gentleman still had his eyes shut tightly. But I could clearly make out trails of tears down his cheek. I felt bad for hurting the elderly man. But injections pricked, and that couldn’t be helped. Still, I wanted to make the patient comfortable.
“Sorry. Did it hurt much ? You’ll soon feel better.” I said.
The old man opened his eyes slightly. “Come here son. Why don’t you sit here with me for a while…”
I moved across to the other side of the bed and sat down on the empty chair. All was quiet for a few minutes. The patient kept his eyes closed while I waited for the medicine to take effect. But suddenly, the old man opened his eyes. They were wet.
“I’m sorry if the injection hurt. But you see, it will bring you comfort in no time.” I tried to console the man.
“Do you know me ?” The old man asked.
“Yes. Who doesn’t ? You are such a well known figure. We have grown up watching you on tv.” I replied.
“But I guess, you would never have seen me crying on tv…” The old man smiled a bit.
“That’s ok. These things do hurt. Specially at your age. But you’ve taken it rather well.” I tried to reason.
“No son.” The old man interrupted. “It’s not my eyes that are crying. It’s my soul.”
“What ? Why ? You’ll be fine.” I blabbered.
“Pneumonia at my age doesn’t leave me with much time. I know it well… and I accept it.” The old man continued. “It’s just the realization of having lost in life that’s…”
“Lost ??? Sir, you have been one of the greatest and most successful businessmen of our times. People dream to be like you. You have achieved what others cannot even think of. How can you even use the word lost for yourself ???” I questioned.
“Come closer son. Let me tell you something that I’ve never told anyone.” He closed his eyes for a few moments. Then opened them again. “Sixty years ago, I was a poor man. I was an apprentice at a small company. I worked hard. Was honest to the core. And I had some big dreams. Really big. That was when I met this girl.”
The old man closed his eyes again. I could see the man was fighting some intense emotions.
“She used to work with us. Soon we became really good friends. Within a few months, I started to feel she was a lot different than all my other friends. She used to help me with everything. Used to share her lunch with me on days when I didn’t have any money to buy food. We used to sit and talk for hours after work. She always made me forget everything even after a tiring day’s work. I knew how she really cared for me. And I felt special.”
The old man stopped speaking again, swallowed, and continued.
“Then one day, she asked me to have dinner at her place. I was sure she was in love with me. Maybe I realized I was too. But I wanted to be sure. But as luck would have it, the owner of our company asked me to do some work for him the same day. And when I reached his house in the evening, he asked me to marry his daughter and take charge of all his business. I guess he was over-awed by my hard work and honesty. That was my chance to get my dream. And I couldn’t miss it. And I accepted.”
There was another pause. The old man took a deep breath.
“I married the owner’s daughter. Didn’t even tell my special friend the reason. And she never asked. She just left the job and went away. I progressed in life. Got all one could dream of. My wife loved me. I had a nice family. I had everything. And I have lived my life believing my success.”
The old man stopped again. And as he started again, a tear rolled out of the corner of his eye.
“But now, when I’m in the final moments of my life, it is destroying my very soul as I realize the emptiness my entire life had. As I lie here, counting my final moments, my entire life flashes in front of my eyes. And every time it pierces my soul by telling me I never had something which was my life. If only I would have told her how I felt for her… if only I had trusted her to accompany me to my dreams… if only I had some patience for success… if only…”
There was silence for a few minutes.
“Tell me son… have you ever loved ?” I was still quiet. “If you have, don’t wait for circumstances. Be honest and tell that someone special how you feel. Coz if you don’t, you’ll regret like me one day. And nothing can be worse than leaving the world with the biggest regret.”
As if on an impulse, I turned to look around. And I saw her across the hall, looking at an X-ray she held up against the light.
“Do you get me ?” Asked the old man.
“Yes sir. I get you !” I replied. I knew I had to wipe out any chances of possible regrets in my life. “Thank you sir !” I held the old man’s hand in my hands and smiled as I got up. “Good night.”
It was 8 AM in the morning but there wasn’t a hint of tiredness in me. The events of the night had changed my life. I felt like flying as I rushed across the long corridors of the hospital to get to the I.C.U. to tell the old man about what had happened during the night.
I was breathless as I reached cubicle # 8. It was empty. I stopped a nurse who passed by. “Nurse, where’s the patient of cubicle # 8 ?”
“Ohh. Don’t you know sir ? He passed away in his sleep last night.”
(Image courtesy : Google Images)
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
“Beep beep” !