Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Like Lazarus

I first decided to keep some sort of journal of my experiences at work, mostly to remind myself that these things actually happened and I had not just imagined them.

I preferred to remember the more light hearted, less serious episodes. 

Every now and again though, I recall some utterly bizzare but actually serious experiences. Like this one from many years ago:

I was freshly qualified, doing my mandatory housemanship year at Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

On this particular day, I was on duty in the emergency department, alongside a fellow house officer (As we were called in the first year following graduation).

Two days earlier, a lady had been rushed in unconscious following a hit-and-run car accident. The person who brought her in had no information about her identity.

Unfortunately, this was not a healthcare system where one was at liberty to save lives at any cost. Somebody had to be paying.

She remained unconscious in the Emergency department until she very sadly died from internal bleeding. Alone, on an examination couch in a busy department, unidentified.

About half an hour after she died, a group of people turned up to the department as her family.

It fell to my colleague to speak to them as he had been the last doctor in attendance. The more senior doctors were attending a trauma.

I saw them gather around him in the room and thought to myself how brave he must be to be able to break that kind of news, and right next to her body.

I carried on with my work.

A few minutes later, I heard mumbling and chanting, coming out of that room, rising above the usual ambient noise.

I looked through the glass door out of curiosity.

The family held hands in a circle around her, praying and singing. In the middle of the circle was Dr. Mycolleague. His hands were pointed over her and he was repeating in a commanding voice: "Rise up! Get up now!"

It was a most bizarre experience. I am a Christian and I am a doctor but this was next level.

I ran to get the consultant on duty.

As it turned out, it was the first time a patient  had died in front of my colleague. He had been struggling to process the experience when the family arrived. This had triggered a mental breakdown, with hysteria and confusion, and he reverted to some sort of Christ-the-healer mode. He did have underlying mental health problems.

I can only imagine the overwhelming sense of guilt, failure and helplessness he must have felt.

He was suspended for a time, whilst getting the help and support he needed.

It was a very hard way to learn the importance of separating sentiments at work especially when dealing with cases that may resonate with personal experiences.

We are humans first.
Every doctor is some other doctor's patient. 


  1. Very interesting to read. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Jennifer Olatunde-ThorpeFebruary 23, 2019 at 7:26 AM

    We are humans first.
    Every doctor is some other doctor's patient. This struck me. Awesome read.

  3. Funny if it wasn't so sad...

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