I had been listening to Joe tell me about his black-fan diamond anaemia for about twenty minutes now, and I was starting to get annoyed.
“On the whole I do eat pretty healthily I’d say. I sort of have to because of my illness…”
Now I had a sneaking suspicion that Joe may have failed to disclose the whole truth, and there were a few subtle indicators to support this hypothesis. Three of them sat on his bedside table. One of them was ready salted, another chocolate coated, and the final clue was radioactive blue and contained somewhere in the region of thirty teaspoons of sugar.
“… I mean I don’t always get my five a day, but who does?”
“Fair enough!” I chuckled, nodding politely.
While it was impossible to be certain, those giveaways in combination with a BMI of well over forty were more than enough to awaken my inner detective and give him reason to doubt Joe.
In light of such blatant deception, everything that Joe disclosed found itself under intense scrutiny. The seed of doubt had been well and truly sewn. Discretely surveying the patient for peripheral stigmata of disease, I noted that he wore a large number of diamond-encrusted rings spread across both hands, each clinging tightly to their assigned digit. Around his neck hung a similarly ornate chain, a fitting accompaniment to the broken glass that adorned his knuckles.
It was a relief when the drone of the air ambulance thundered through the air from overhead. I gave Joe the usual thank you and goodbye routine and scuttled off to Resus to see what was occurring, accompanied by the feeling of satisfaction that came with being the Sherlock Holmes of bariatrics.
There were plenty of people milling around in resus waiting for the call to arrive, fighting for space in the crowded, dimly lit room. Dr Shah explained that it was a drowning. How exciting – this was a new one! I was to record the story as the paramedics recounted the events that had transpired, and it was after being given this task that my heart began to race. This was it. Finally I would experience the excitement of helping save a life even with the most minor of contributions. This was what medicine was all about.
How pathetic it all seems now.
All of a sudden, everything stopped: the busy people, my pounding myocardium, time itself even. There was no announcement or fanfare. They just wheeled him in. A huge lump of a man wearing only his midnight blue speedos and a dusting of sand lifted from the beach. The LUCAS machine pounded relentlessly at the crater that had formerly been his chest wall, the sound of its desperate beating dominating the room. His pale body lay quite still throughout, his face emotionless, unamused, his cold limbs as lifeless as the salt that still coated them. There was an eerie calm bathing everyone and everything in the room. A flow of energy like nothing I had experienced before. Few words were exchanged, and silence reigned until it was time to call the death, after which normal service resumed. Doctors joked with each other about their weekends once more and the team dispersed to continue their duties, the events that had just occurred seemingly already forgotten.
It was time for lunch so I scurried out of the emergency department. What lingered was not shock or sadness, but rather an overwhelming sense of futility. Edward would have had absolutely no idea that when he climbed into the cold sea that morning it would be the last time he would ever do so. He would have had no idea that earlier today he had been eating his last breakfast, or that he had been taking his very last shit the night before. If anything, this morning had served more as a stark reminder of the fragility of existence: sometimes people are happy and in the next moment they could be sad and in the next moment they could be angry or laughing or confused or horny or scared or in love or relieved or dead.