Thursday, April 10, 2008

Death Rattled

A face to face encounter with death is something not normally undertaken by most people. I’ve begun to see enough of the haggard face of Death that I’m getting slightly immune – slightly, not completely.

It used to transfix me, watching someone die – especially in the ICU where so much seemed to be happening. Now I go about my business, still checking in to see if Death, with his icy, skeletal fingers, has deposed a soul of their body, but I no longer hang around and wait.

Gasping for breaths, eyes lolling absently within the skull, chest and abdomen heaving from the physiological desire to increase the body's blood-oxygen - not normally a pleasant view to observe. I think I’ve seen enough to remain interested, but not morbidly fascinated - as if I'm witnessing my own mortality through another life’s culmination.

I do know that the exposure has solidified any unnecessary desire in me to seek heroic interventions for own life. Do what you can, without going overboard - that's my take on it. These people who spend days to weeks in the hospital are, for the most part, already door nails (if you get my drift) – we just fool ourselves while the machine works.

To further these considerations I have decided that I should attend an autopsy - offered at certain times for those students/ nurses interested to which I was heretofore unawares - while on this rotation to finally deal with Death's throes over life. Seeing the completeness of a body emptied, lifeless, being quickly but systematically cut open in an attempt to understand the "flawed defect" that resulted in death should be riveting. And an experience that teaches how fragile life is - in spite of our societal denial that death is the inevitability of life.

1 comment:

The Girl said...

It should be an interesting experience. Our medical school have decided that all second-year students should attend one autopsy.
Because not enough hospital autopsies are carried out in Australia for us to all attend, we are to observe coronial autopsies. Murders, car crashes, and the like.
I'm sure it will be a life-affirming experience. I feel bad for the younger students who haven't yet seen a dead body.