“But won’t Daddy come home tonight, Mama?” the little child asked her mother who was decorating the Christmas tree. “Oh! Jenny, you know your father is a busy man. But remember, he has promised us that he’d be home, this Christmas night to celebrate with us. He always keeps his word, no matter what.” The child put on a smile of hope and went on to help her Mom.
Jenny’s father Eric Langerhoff was the chief of Diagnostics Department in Seattle Grace Hospital, Washington, a well-known teaching hospital with a popular research division. He was one among the most reputed surgeons in the country. He thus found it difficult to spend enough time with his family, especially Christmas. But this time he decided to celebrate it with his six year old girl and his wife Emma without fail.
The huge iron clock at the hospital struck eight when the Operation Theatre opened and an exhausted Eric walked out. “I need the surgery reports on my table before you go Dr Eric”, said the Dean of Medicine cum Chief Administrator Dr Aron Rogers as Eric was getting ready to leave.
“Don’t worry Chief, you’ll get your reports soon enough. Why the big rush? There’s always a tomorrow.” Eric told his superior with a smile, as he was putting on his shoulder bag.
Aron smiled back as he saw Eric punch out his ID card to exit the building while he met Dr Stanley, the head of SGH Research Department and a long-time friend of Eric. Stanley handed a sample of something to Eric, who put it in his pocket and left the building into the excruciating coldness of the winter night. Aron understood that it was a sample of their new cardiac medication developed at their Research Centre termed “Warfarin Benazepril” or simply WarBen.
It was given to Eric, since he was great a chemical analysis of drugs, as he was an amazing diagnostician. He identifies even the rarest diseases that do not express much symptoms, by just investigating a patient’s home, workplace or even their family history and food habits.
“Jenny, put on the news to check the weather forecast in Washington. I think Daddy’s getting late because of snowy roads. He just won’t pick up the phone.” The Christmas sermon was on when Jenny put on the TV.
The preacher spoke “Hebrews chapter 13 verse 2 says ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.’ This means angels can take the form of humans to help you get delivered from your problems and…..”
“Jenny, what are you watching?”
“Mom, did you hear that? Is it true what that old man on TV said?”
“Hmm. I wish it were really that simple. But things don’t really work out that way in the real world, my child. It’s just to teach a lesson so as to show hospitality to others. Religion is just a way to make people good in heart to do the right things in fear of supernatural and fictitious beings. But in reality there are no superstitious powers for our help rather than ourselves.”
Jenny couldn’t take it seriously as such was her age. She was in the world of unicorns and fairy tales.
“Surprise!” came a voice from the door and then it opened.
“Daddy!” she ran into the arms of her father and hugged him and he handed her a wrapped Christmas gift. She tore off the wrapping paper and took out her gift. “A Barbie doll? Thanks Dad.” She went on her way with her new toy.
“And what does Mrs Langerhoff want for Christmas?” he asked in a sugary voice to Emma.
“Nothing doc! Just you standing here tonight with us, is more than enough for me.” Eric approached his wife and gave her a tender kiss on her forehead. They had tremendous joy being able to celebrate Christmas night with Eric. It’s been four years since such a Christmas together with his family.
The family had tons of entertainment by ice skating at the small rink in their house, playing card games, crossword puzzles, cracking Christmas jokes and much more and finally it was dinner time.
While Emma was preparing supper, there was a knock on the door. “I’ll get it honey”, said Eric and walked towards the door. When he open the door he was surprised to see a crying nine year old girl child wearing a blue jacket and a brown leather bag. He bent down and held the child’s face, wiped her tears and asked “What is it you want child and why are you here alone at night?”
In a crying voice, the girl said “My ….my ……my mum is very sick. She needs help immediately. There’s no one around us to help. They have all gone away on vacation. Please …. please help my mother” as tears rolled down from her eyes.
He gave a look at his family and then said to the child “All right dear, don’t worry. We’ll make your Mom better.” He went on to take his jacket while Jenny held his shirt firmly and said “But Daddy you promised …”
“It’s okay Jenny. I’ll be back before you know it. Now be a good girl until I come back.” He put on his coat and went along with the weeping child.
After walking a few minutes, he realised it was a slightly long walk to her home and thought about getting his car for a moment but settled that walking a few miles wouldn’t do much harm. He held the little child’s hand and tried to console her. Minutes later, she was back to a good mood and the two started to converse about different matters.
“What type of a doctor are you?”
“Well, I’m a diagnostician as well as a surgeon.”
“Hmm. How many people do you treat every day?” the child asked anxiously.
“It depends. Maybe one or two”
“Only one or two per day?” Sophie asked.
“One or two in a week. Sometimes only one for weeks!” said Eric.
“Are you that lazy, doc?”
Eric giggled at the child’s sarcastic question and said “What my department does is slightly different from other doctors. Among different cases that come up in different departments of the hospital, the diseases whose symptoms are confusing and those which are difficult to identify by the respective divisions are sent to us. My Diagnostic department contains the best doctors in the country who expertise in all the different divisions of medicine. We check the patient’s daily routine, places they visit, lifestyle, home conditions etc. to deduce the chemicals and radiations that they are exposed to and analyse it with their medical history and family history of diseases. We’re literally the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Medicine!’ .It takes some time but in the end it will cure the person completely. A blind person may walk in to us to cure a cold and would come out retrieving his eyesight. That’s how we do things. The cases that we take up are about ninety percent guaranteed to be misdiagnosed by other doctors which might result in a serious medical condition or even death. But I’m sure it’s beyond your age to understand what I just said.”
“Wow, so you like your job?” she asked frantically.
“Like my job? Let me tell you about today to make you understand how interesting it is.
Couple of days ago we got a case forwarded from neurology. A nineteen year old girl named Hannah was admitted after she coughed up blood during a martial arts practice. I presumed without any solid evidence that it might be a bacterial infection without any solid proofs. My fellow doctors brought out specifics to prove me wrong with better diagnosis. Soon, her condition slowly deteriorated at the hospital and she stroked, shortly followed by kidney failure. We conducted a protein deficiency test and the results proved the validity of our suspicion. It proved that she might be suffering from either of two medical conditions. It might be a rare and incurable genetic disorder called Leprechaun’s disorder which resulted in early death or otherwise these symptoms might have been caused by a bacterial infection, like I thought earlier. But we had no valid evidence for infection because even its tests aren’t always accurate.”
He then looked at the little child who is too small to understand all this.
“What? Just because I’m a kid doesn’t mean I don’t understand what you’re saying. Even I know a medical term or two. Now go on”, Sophie protested.
“Alright”, he continued. “So we were given lab reports that suited the Leprechaun’s disorder and since none of the others were willing to break this sad news to her and her family, I had to inform the parents that their beloved daughter was going to die.
As I approached the family that was making small talks with each other besides the hospital bed wherein the girl lay, they concluded that my dull face had no good news for them. “I’m sorry guys, Hannah is about to die. We’re helpless.” I had to say. With a terror stricken face they hugged her to cry. “Hannah, you’re suffering from a very rare genetic disorder called…..”
“I don’t want to know” Hannah proclaimed.
“But, it’s due to….”
“Please leave us”, her father demanded in a low voice.
I left the family for them to take an emotional moment. As I sat on one of the benches in the hospital garden, I was rethinking all her symptoms to see if I had missed anything and the question arose within me as to why such a well-educated person especially a biology student didn’t want to know the reason why she is about to face death. My friend Stanley joined me in discussion.
“You shouldn’t have stressed on the disease right after you informed her that she was about to die. You only made her miserable.” Stanley said.
I reacted. “Oh! Come on Stan. She is as miserable as she was ever before. It only ….”
I became stuck for a while. All different types of diagnosis ran forth in my mind for a microsecond. “Oh my God!” I realised something.
I ran to Hannah’s room and asked her parents to leave for a moment. They disagreed. “Your daughter might live!” I announced. They walked out disapprovingly and I shut the door after they left.”
“You’re an imbecile. Do you know that?” I asked the confused Addie.
I walked near her and said in a soft voice “You tried to suicide by swallowing a tablet of kitchen drain cleanser, didn’t you?”
She was shocked. “How did you know?”
I continued, “But being a college-educated suicidal imbecile, you wrapped it in bubble gum so that it wouldn’t show up in tox-screens. It burned a hole in your intestine. But interestingly the body can repair almost anything which is cool! In your case scar tissues overlapped the wound to heal it but it also formed a bridge between your intestine and a nearby artery by which bacteria from the pill intake and wound, could traverse throughout your entire body, resulting in your symptoms. It was just due to bacterial infection and I was right again.”
A silence spread across the room until her voice broke it down. “Can you fix me?” she asked me sadly without a hint of any hope.
“The surgery to break the bridge and fix you takes about three hours but fixing your suicidal mind takes some time.
But why did you do it?”
“My loving parents gave me the best of everything and expected the best in return. I was under tremendous pressure to be Mom and Dad’s perfect daughter. In a moment when I felt I won’t be able to take it anymore, I planned my suicide instantly and was too late to even regret it.”
Soon we were in a long, tiresome and critical surgery. Finally we cured her and I came out just a couple of hours ago from the theatre.
So how do you like my day?” I asked Sophie.
“It’s really thrilling.”
“Maybe one day you too can experience this thrill by becoming a doctor”
“I really don’t think that’s gonna happen” Sophie replied
“Why? Nothing is impossible”
“Actually some things are, doc”
After walking and chatting about a couple of miles in the wintry night, they reached at the facade of a small cottage surrounded by a beautiful garden. She opened the door for and welcomed him to the bedroom in which her mother lay, who looked a little absurd. Eric understood that she was about to have a cardiac arrest. He ran on top of her to give her a CPR but she underwent a seizure along with an attack. The girl was traumatised at seeing her mother in such a way. Eric took the woman’s hand and realised that she had no pulse.
“Quick! Dial 911” Eric asked Sophie. She handed him a portable land phone and he called the ambulance.
“Is ……is my mom…… my Mom gonna die?” the little girl started to weep.
Eric held her hand and brought her to the living room. “I won’t let anything happen to your mother. Now stay here while I treat her. All right?”
Within a few minutes an ambulance along with some Emergency Medical Officers came out. They brought in their equipment along with them.
“Get a crash cart in here” the doctor demanded. The team assembled the cart and attached her to an electrocardiogram. Eric took the defibrillator paddles in his hand.
“Clear!” he shouted and placed the paddles on her chest. In an instant, there was an electric discharge from the paddles with a loud burst that shook her and sent her trembling for a second. Still there was no cardiac rhythm. There was just a straight line on the ECG indicated by a loud beep.
“Going again………….Clear!” he shouted and placed the paddles once again, expecting yet another miracle but couldn’t expect one. She was at the door of death and there was no expectation of her return.
He held his hands close to his chest thinking what to do and how he had to face the child to tell her that her mother was no more. Just then, his hands felt something in his coat’s pocket. He took it out and it was written on the tube’s top with a rough handwriting ‘Warfarin Benazepril’
Oh! He forgot the fact that WarBen lay in his pocket all this time. It was a medicine that was about to change the face of the medical world. But this new medicine had just one problem. WarBen’s clinical trials were not yet over. Unless and until the results of its clinical trials get approved by the American Medical Association and is licences to manufacture and distribute, it is just another illegal medicine. Eric knew that if the medication would be used and would not work, then the woman’s body would undergo a post mortem and the drug’s presence in the body will make him face disciplinary action and he might end up in jail for using an illegal medication, which was against medical ethics.
He became stuck for a moment. The Emergency team was making preparations to carry a dead body and even informed the hospital mortuary while a big debate was going on in Eric’s mind- ‘his career or the woman’s life?’
While one of the staff packed up his medical kit and was about to leave the room, the doctor’s hand stopped his departure, hurryingly opened the kit and took out a syringe. Eric filled the syringe with WarBen and injected it in one of the woman’s veins at her elbow and took a few steps back after he withdrew the syringe.
Still there was no sign of any change in her drastic condition. He turned himself away from the patient. His heart skipped a beat. Who would have ever known that the fall of one of America’s greatest diagnosticians would be through a simple case of heart attack? He had always solved cases doing the unthinkable and unpredictable, laying his career on the line. But this time, it was a little out of hand.
‘Beeeeep’ rushed a sound out of nowhere. This unexpected sound made him turn back. There was a flicker in the electrocardiogram. The pessimistic faces of the officials rushed towards the room. They were amazed to see her heart rhythm rise up like the majestic mountains of the Alps. Soon her blood pressure returned to normal gradually. Her oxygen saturation came to normal, and there was life flowing through her veins. She was so exhausted and dehydrated. The team hurried her to the ambulance and while being carried, she asked for the doctor.
In a tired sound she said “Tha…..thank…….. You doctor for saving me.”
“Well you should thank your daughter. It is because of her bravery that I was able to reach on time to save you.”
The confused lady looked at Eric while she was about to be laid in the ambulance and raised her tiresome voice “But .. but I don’t have a daughter. She died ….years ago”
“But she was just here ……..” Eric paused a bit and understood the situation. He called in one of the officials and said “She is suffering from post-traumatic stress after the attack and is hallucinating.” He prescribed some medicines for it and handed it to the officer before the ambulance raced away.
“Well that ended smoothly” he sighed.
“Sophie!” Eric called out. There was no answer. He called once again. No reply
He went inside the house and searched everywhere. There was no sign of the little girl.
“Oh my gosh. Silly me! She must have obviously gone with her mother in the ambulance. I forgot to notice her during all this.”
Eric went back to close the main door of the house and planned to leave as a special Christmas dinner awaited him.
As he switched off the lights and held his hands on the handle, a small candle light in the living room caught his eye. He walked towards it and saw a collection of photo albums and framed pictures in the dark. He took a big photo in his hand and brushed the dust on o of it. Unable to see it clearly, he brought it towards the candlelight and stared for a moment.
The glass frame of the photo fell from his hand and shattered into pieces and a terrified doctor lay at one of the corners of the room holding his hands on his face in horror.
The photo was entitled ‘In Beloved Memory of Sophie Sheraton, only child of Mary Sheraton. Born on 14.03.1999, Laid to Rest on 22.07.2008.’ Below it was the photo of the child who was wearing the exact same blue jacket and a brown leather bag just as Eric had seen her earlier. She died five years ago.
Eric dashed back home and even tried to call the officials to check if they had seen the woman’s daughter. They informed the fact there wasn’t any young girl in the house premises while they had been at the house.
“Honey, you look weird. What happened?” Emma asked the confused diagnostician who sat on the sofa trying to pull himself together.
Their conversation was interrupted by Jenny. “Momma, why did that girl look like an angel? She was as majestic and beautiful as one.”
“She looked like what?” Eric asked
“Nothing Eric, she is just too caught up in some meaningless sermon. Now tell me what’s happened to you?” Emma asked curiously.
Eric replied, “Nothing…. It was ……it was just a hallucination.
Or was it?”