Intimations of Mortality

April 7, 2003 at 8:13 pm | Posted in Ennui, Kule | Leave a comment

Death wanders like a preying bird within the confines of the Philippine General Hospital�s emergency room. It is 1 a.m., and the humid air of this midsummer night reeks of anguish. For even as evening deepens into a mourning echo, sadness is everywhere in this cramped, dingy ward.


In medical parlance they call it toxic. Patients pouring in faster than nurses can even keep track of them. But at least, the solemn mood of the room is punctuated only by the occasional sobbing of worried kins over ailing relatives.

I survey the scenes being played in front of me and I am overwhelmed by the amount of misery that apparently pervades the place.

In one obscure corner, a mother tries to calm down her wailing infant, as a doctor examines the child with weary eyes. In the sickbed next to them a nurse, with indifferent hands, attempts to feel signs of life from a barely-breathing old man by pressing her fingers against his wrist. An attendant carts away a woman in a wheelchair, while a man, presumably her husband, follows them. At the receiving desk, a nurse covers her face with her hands. She is falling asleep.

With no partitions to even distinguish between each patient’s grief, the tragedy of disease becomes a communal experience in this ward. Simply, one�s sorrow can only be as bad as that of the person lying next to him. Gather all your wounded, the frail and the suffering, bring them here, this is sanctuary. But given the antiquated equipment and the dilapidated tiles, this sanctuary must be in trouble.

For one, people who cannot find a decent spot where they could rest opt to sleep on the curb outside the emergency room. Inside, ventilation is poor, with ceiling fans doing most of the work.
The inherent gloom in the emergency room reminds me of my own travails and the occasional depressions I suffer from. Unlike most people here tonight, I doubt if there are any reliable prescriptions available for my own afflictions. It even makes me envy these people a bit.

Distressingly, my life never seemed more finite than tonight, after I find myself in the company of those who are possibly facing the limits of their own mortality. I find it disturbing to think that someday I might just find myself lying in one of the beds here, my mortality imperiled, my pain exposed in full view of onlookers and passersby.

The alien scent of linen bedsheets and sterilized syringes pacifies the stench of expiring souls in this room. But somehow it still seems fake to me. Pain is a deeply personal struggle. But with patients closely lined up in rows to accommodate the overflow of people availing of this hospital�s free services, the ward�s set-up does not allow much room for suffering in private.

So I guess I�m still better off than the poorly attended patients of the PGH emergency room. At least I can keep my own torments to myself. If only for that then on a figurative and literal level, I can say that I wouldn�t be caught dead in this place.

(a mood piece written in May 1999, found it in my archives, and recalled a long-forgotten crush, hehe)

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