I am on call now and just met the most remarkable man.
I was paged down to the ICU to pronounce a patient dead. I walked over there and on getting into the ICU, I saw one of the nurses (Barb is her name) and I asked her, what room is it? And she carelessly retorted “Room 8”. One of the first rules of the Medicine is that you have to “desensitize” yourself to death and all the trappings that come with it. I asked Barb, “Is there family in the room with him?” to which she replied “I think his father”. Again, carelessly.
So I tiredly walked into room 8 and from the door I could tell already that the body on the bed was lifeless. Really, death pronouncement is more of a formality. Recognizing a dead body is not exactly rocket science. I turned to the lone family standing in the room to introduce myself. He was looking out the window backing the door. I said, “Hello, I’m Dr Enweluzo and I am going to be doing the death pronouncement”. He turned and looked at me and with a crack of a smile, he took the words out of my mouth and told me, “I know”. I was surprised cos I thought he had so much peace that was genuine. I then turned to him and said, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, what happened?” (This patient was not admitted by the residency service so I did not know him). He looked at me, placed his hand on my shoulder, and said Tommy (not real name) has gone to be with the lord. Then I knew that was the reason behind the stillness he exuded. It came from his spirit. I felt awkward but I kept looking at him and all I could think was “such faith”.
Just like any other person, I offered my condolences to which he kept telling me “it’s well”. (Remember, I am the doctor and not the one needing consolation and strength but he gave me this). Out of genuine concern, I asked him if he had anyone coming to get him from the hospital. (He was a frail looking 79 year old guy). He looked at me and said,”Oh yes! I have a wife and a daughter”. I was just about to ask him if I could call them when he said “They too are with the lord, Tommy just joined them”. He smiled and told me “I am alone” He explained how Tommy, now in his 40s, had led a very rough life in his days but had come to know the lord recently. He told me of how Tommy had a heart transplant in his 20s for which he had to take immunosuppressive drugs which in turn killed his kidneys placing him on lifelong dialysis eventually leading to his demise.
After giving me this story, he walked to the bedside and looked at his son’s lifeless face for about 15 seconds, he looked up and I could see a wide smile on his face with big balls of tears running down his cheeks. A mix of emotions. He then started saying repeatedly, “Oh Tommy, how lucky you are, you get to be with the Lord and sit in his presence!!” Then he went on to say, “Don’t worry daddy is not too far behind”. I stood in the room, frozen, you could say perplexed. Not because I considered the behavior abnormal but because I thought to myself how that frail looking 79 year old man, Tommy’s dad had preached a life sermon to me in the short time I had spent with him at his dead son’s side. To me, this was Evangelism Personified. This man not only had faith but he wore it on his sleeve. He sure wasn’t grieving but he celebrated his son’s life in that seemingly obscure moment.
I had been having a busy day prior to this, but I paused to ponder on a boat load of things. I am sure Tommy would be proud of his father who exuded such grace and peace that could only have come from knowledge of a power and being behind all we see and feel. Indeed this was “peace that passeth all understanding”.
By 12:20pm on a busy Monday afternoon, I pronounced Tommy dead.