she was curled up with her knees bent unwillingly to her chest. her lips smacked without intention, her face blank from years of nerve-numbing drugs. she flinched only slightly as we made elliptical cuts into her bacteria-eaten skin, removing slough built from neglect. the stench from her wounds contorted the faces of those in the theatre while hers remained expressionless. we dressed them hastily, eager to send her out of the room.
i glanced at her file as the ward staff collected her from the air-lock. only God knows how long she’s been incarcerated at a hospital meant for the unsound. she was an ulcer-ridden body, smeared with her own waste, a product of tasteless nutrition fed through a tube, sediments in her urine. she was a picture of loveless desolation.
earlier, when we were surveying the damage, there was a moment when her head was pushed so hard to the side that her face pressed against the barriers of the cot she lay in. i had to raise my voice to get everyone to ease off and reposition her. while her sores were debrided, there was an instance when she let out a groan of pain. it was the only time she made her presence as a living person known. otherwise, she was a shriveled mass of infected skin and bones.
i could have thought about many things – what she was like before the psychiatric illness, why her family abandoned her. i could have fumed at the poor nursing care at the referring hospital.
instead, i considered reaching over to the small container of restricted drugs on the anaesthesist’s trolley and giving her a lethal dose of morphine or midazolam or propofol. i thought about giving her the gift of death, a chance for the afterlife because she no longer has a chance in this one.
God would have been capable of that sort of mercy. it’s unfortunate that i wasn’t.