When you are in the midst of chaos, your mind can do either of two things – it can go into fight mode, or it can go into flight mode. I remained in neutral mode even though I had just been wheeled out of a surgery that had literally left my hand in a state of shock and the risk of cancer close enough to scare me for eternity. The young intern’s mistake stayed with me long after the surgery as I tried to cover the hand with full sleeved shirts and a blanket on top. With tubes matching step with the veins, and the shock of the trauma showing up as discolouration and swelling as well as intense pain, I knew I would have to find a way to make my peace with what I was going through.
Even as I was coming out of the haze of anesthesia, I could hear an elderly couple next to the bed, trying to spend a few moments of peace as one of them lay ailing. But each time the patient fell asleep, the loud creaking of the door our ICU would come as a jarring reminder that he was in a hospital where peace was not really served with the medicines. I watched through my haze as this patient was disturbed time and again, before I decided to something about it. Finally, I summoned the young medical assistant on duty and requested him to bring in a toolkit.
He looked at me, confused out of his wits. Slowly, I lifted my hand – now riddled with all the tubes and swelling – as I pointed towards the door and said, “Well, it will take a quick adjustment to fix that noise. This elderly gentleman needs his sleep. I am sure you understand what I mean.”
From the look on his face, I could tell that while he understood the exact demands and the mechanics of it, he was not being able to come to terms with the fact that a patient just wheeled in from surgery was busy thinking about the comfort of the patient in the next bed. But is that not what I had pledged to do for all my brothers and sisters in this country, a long time ago when I took an oath and placed it with the stars on my shoulders, in the form of ranks? Uniform or no uniform – I would fulfill that oath each and every time I saw someone in need, despite my obvious discomfort. Once a soldier, always a soldier.
Finally, someone appeared with the required tools and I was able to give the exact instructions that fixed the door in less than a few minutes. While the elderly couple thanked me profusely, I also saw a look of fondness now entering the eyes of all the doctors, nurses and assistants on duty. I would not only get better, but I would help everyone around me too.
As I remained in the hospital a while longer, I came to infuse the air around me with energy. Even though I was barely able to talk, I ensured that I would let out a motivational line or two to inspire those tending to me, those visiting me, and those waiting to get better in the beds next to me. People visited me constantly and exclaimed, “Oh, what has befallen you!”
I simply smiled and said, “I am not here because I am sick – I am here to get better.”
And so my hospital stay continued. In the meantime, my beautiful wife came to visit me. And she happened to catch sight of the dreaded hand which had still not recovered enough to hide the signs of trauma and a botched mistake on the operating table. Before she knew it, she fainted and had to be taken away. I ensured that my family would get nothing but a cheerful greeting from me for the rest of my stay. Within no time though, I was back at work, back at my desk.
Also, I had just finished writing the sequel to my book, Shaheen Must Die, and I did not want to pause the process of getting it into the market for my beloved readers. So, I shocked my publisher and editor, Devangini, when I gave her a call saying, “The book must go on!”
“Aren’t you supposed to be in the hospital, Capt Walia?” She finally asked when she gathered herself. In all of this, she had been a recipient of my WhatsApp messages that updated her about my situation and the possibility of cancer. So I said, “No, no – the surgery was two days ago, and I am now at work.”
Needless to say, there were a few moments of silence, before she said, “Just as I had expected!”
And so, even as I waited for my report, the new book Stupid Me, went into print, despite the looming threat of cancer. What would the biopsy say? What would my life be like in a few days? What would my fate show me now? I had no idea – but I knew I would fight today, for a better tomorrow!