When my dad had his liver transplant, after a long operation, he was brought to the recovery room. He’s been in the RR for a day already when 3am the next day, my mom and I received a phone call (we were in a hospital room). It was the nurse requesting for my presence. She said my dad was looking for me and requested that I be there with him. Of course I got excited to see him, but I was more worried because it was 3am — way past visiting hours, and the fact that no one really receives a visitor in the recovery room. I rushed looking for the room. When I found the room, I was asked to put on sterile gown and footwear, and I finally saw my dad.
My knees went weak, because I never expected to see him in such a bad shape. They said the operation appears successful, and that he’s under observation if the transplanted organ was compatible with my dad’s body. But to me then, back when I was not yet a med student, he appeared more sick than ever. There’s a tube in his mouth, or rather, he was intubated. Because of this, he couldn’t speak and he had to use a board of letters to talk to me. His trembling fingers barely pointing at the right letters, he was able to spell out P-A-I-N. He was in pain. My eyes were welling up with tears and I wanted to take out all the tubes from him so I could hug him properly, but all I could do then was rub the back of his hand, trying to reassure him with my presence.
I remember feeling furious and very bitter at the doctors who were on duty with him that night. From my perspective, I saw a very bitter contrast of those doctors being so young and full of energy, and my dad being a doctor who’s grown older because of his sickness and in his weakest state. I was bitter at the fact that they were young and healthy, and feeling almighty with what they know and what they could do. I was feeling bitter that they were trying to ignore my dad crying out in pain. Maybe that’s why they called me because they couldn’t shush my dad. And I couldn’t give him comfort either, if only I knew what was really happening back then.
Now, here I am trying to be a doctor myself. I meet patients, and I try to learn from them. I’m no longer a “bantay” by the bed, but a doctor-to-be — like I’m already on the other side of the hospital bed. My dad has gone ahead, and he’s given me a lot of support in this endeavor. Remembering that moment with him in the recovery room reminds me to be more sympathetic with my patients. It made me realize that not because I’m studying medicine means I know more. Because truth is, I don’t. Every patient encounter should be a point of learning for me — to learn his/her case and more importantly, how he/she is feeling.
Thank you, dad, for still trying to guide me through this.