Sleeping beauty:

Hospitals will drain your energy away.

If it’s not the surrounding death, nor the bleach-meets-blood-and-body-odors stench, it’s the pace, the stress and the diet consisting of mainly vending machines and soda, lots and lots of soda.

Keeping the engine running in this environment is nothing short of difficult, almost miraculous. It sounds as though I’m exaggerating but I’m not. Just last week I meet a forty-year-old orthopedist who arrived at our company to show his gratitude towards the owner and the great German stents we sell.

An orthopedist thanking us for stents? That’s as weird as a computer engineer thanking BMW for great brakes.

There was only one reason: even at forty, stents can be necessary.

Stents are tiny meshes introduced into fluid conducts (the urethra, veins or arteries) to expand them and allow for stronger flow. They can fix irregular flow to the kidneys, urinary insufficiency, even the esophagus!

But this case called for coronary stents. That’s right! Such was the wear and tear on his body, the stress, the diet, the oblivious cholesterol piling up, the lack of sleep after hours on end working and the irregular physical activity, that he ended up with a triple stent insertion.

At forty? That just doesn’t sound right.

So, it is best to make do with what one’s got. Take this example: about two months ago I met a doctor, probably about fifty, that was as fit as a tiger. How did he do it? Pretty simple.

With four things:

– Never use the elevator. Stairs are your friend.

– If it’s wrapped, then it’s not good for you.

– Dunk yourself in a pot of imaginary oil, so that all worries slip away.

But there was one thing he didn’t tell me. I came to find it out later. He sleeps and sleeps regularly.

And then it hit me: we are told that driving while tired is just as dangerous as driving drunk. Doctors spend over thirty hours straight working, between watches and shifts and emergencies and such. Isn’t being a doctor while tired just as dangerous?

I understand doctors and healthcare professionals are valuable. But our lives also are.


The Dark Night Rises

And so, as the clock struck midnight, the bullets flew from side to side, bangs deafened the screaming and gunshots muzzled the feared, silencing it for eternity. Twelve people died and fifty-eight are now in hospitals. I can picture myself there, in the emergency room, probably just doing inventory, then the doors blast open and in comes a gurney with a twelve year old boy–two shots to the chest, one to the knee–and the darkest of prognosis.

What happened? I can see myself confused, just rushing to the corner and stepping away from the chaos. I have nothing to do. I want nothing to do with this. It’s obvious, no one has to tell me, I just leave the emergency room and wait for the chaos to subside, which won’t happen tonight, or tomorrow. It will take a couple of months, three perhaps. Then most of society, except for a handful of saddened relatives, will forget until it happens again. And it will.

It will happen because we are too violent and we are happy with it. A crowd cheers an athlete that hits another one, a crowd cheers when a superhero smacks the shit out of the villain—probably a black or Asian enemy—and a crowd cheers when a country wins a war. We are too competitive and we justify success directly with it: we celebrate when our nearest competitor declares bankruptcy since it means more money for us. We are too selfish and we are happy with it. And we are all guilty.

But, strangely, that’s not what worries me. With the amount of people in this world, it was bound to happen. What worries me is this: if we were to tell someone, anyone, within say, a mall, that in the parking lot there are thousands of rounds and rifles, ready to be used at the flick of an “insanity” switch, people would flee, the building would probably be evacuated and abandoned within seconds.

Then why didn’t it happen?

Stricter security measures? Not useful. Social places are ideal for relaxation and tougher active-security measures would render us tenser and, hence, more violent. The idea that suppressing the likelihood of another attack is a thing of the past. Corrective actions shouldn’t happen, especially in this age of technical advances and “the peak of society as we know it”. Maybe passive-security measures will work.

Tougher gun control? Probably will work, though I know many friends with rifles and guns that won’t go on a killing spree. Again, I know many I wouldn’t trust a gun with.

Lesser violence? Surely. After all, humans are formed in their houses.

More education? Definitely.


The Challenge: Part Two

So, the challenge was placed in front of me. It was pretty simple, I have to admit, but still it hit me as hard as an bull’s kick. I established a friendship with a female doctor I met in the National Rehabilitation Center after the accident; I can safely say we have the trust to be open about fears and concerns.


One day, she and I spoke of my frustrations: I can’t lift heavy objects any more. The accident rendered my back weak and unresponsive to massive efforts (and I’m 26 years old). She responded with a very interesting question:


Bernard, say you knew that within one year, you will go through the exact same accident, but this time, the consequences would be nefarious. Your condition (hyper lordosis), would snap your spine in two, and you would end in a wheel chair. You will be unable to go to the bathroom, have intercourse and move about independently. 


If you knew that in one year this would happen, what would you do in this year?


I hesitated, I didn’t have the answer.


Whatever it is, just do it. You never know what’s going to happen.


Welcome to the challenge.

My creative independence slaves me:

Greetings, world! This post revolves around the July topic of Absolute Write’s Watercooler blog chain: Independence and Slavery. Firstly, the participants of this chain are mentioned:

Drum roll, please:

Participants and posts:

orion_mk3 – (link to this month’s post)
knotanes – (link to this month’s post)
meowzbark – (link to this month’s post)
Ralph Pines – (link to this month’s post)
randi.lee – (link to this month’s post)
writingismypassion – (link to this month’s post)
pyrosama – (link to this month’s post)
bmadsen – (link to this month’s post)
dclary – (link to this month’s post)
Poppy – (link to this month’s post)
areteus – (link to this month’s post)
Sweetwheat – (link to this month’s post)
ThorHuman – (link to this month’s post)
Tex_Maam – (link to this month’s post)
MelodySRV – (link to this month’s post)

My creative independence slaves me:

It was a Saturday afternoon, the wind had suddenly chilled to the point of discomfort and the clouds had flooded the skies. The sun was only visible as insistent rays piercing through the thick gray tumults. Evergrey echoed in my headphones. And my manuscript was right in front of me, challenging me to change it.

This was the seventh—or eighth, not really sure—revision and still I couldn’t seem to break from the original idea, even though I didn’t like it. And worst of all, it really caught my eye to see that, though I could come up with anything I wanted regarding the characters of this novel, I couldn’t break free from the original idea.

As I analyzed every line of my manuscript I realized that it was that very same initial creativity that held me back. I created characters, gave them lives, names, problems and fears, they spoke back to me, asking for a change, telling me they didn’t agree with the grainy beard, the pokey eyes or the soft hands. The novel moved on, they moved on, growing up, becoming defined as individuals in a world I had created.

Slight fear had overtaken me. Had I gotten to a point in which they ruled what was to happen and not me? If that were so, how would I know how the novel would head?

I wanted to change them. I wanted to impose my point of view and not theirs. It didn’t work.  Now I must work with them in order to see if we can come up with an agreed ending, a defined rhythm, heck, even the color of the house they live in.  It seems as though I’m a slave to my own creativity.

I got to admit, I like it, though it sometimes frustrates me. Perhaps this post was just a creative rant, a moment of weakness in a usually steady flow of creativity, but it felt from the skies at the right time to let out my frustrations.

I will work with them. But not right at this moment, I’ve just gotten an emergency call. One of our machines is needed in the hospital.

Biomed’s rule number 2:

Always, ALWAYS, stop at a doorway and look both ways before you exit. Hospitals work at a different pace, a rhythm that has a mind of its own, and the staff inside hospitals don’t slow down for outsiders.

So before you step forth, look both ways.

I forgot Biomed’s rule number 2, for just a second. I innocently waltzed into the hallway and the world stopped: I didn’t know shoes screeched. Perhaps it was a scream. Her eyes locked with mine. Her hands stiffened. Her breath stopped. Mine did too.

My heart raced.

“Watch it, will ya?” She said with an evil grin. Between us only inches and in her hands a bed pan full of piss. Nasty, yellow, stinking piss. “‘Cause this one is a stinker.”

My heart slowed down. I apologized.

Biomed’s rule number 2: stop and look both ways.

I’d rather be a hammer

…Than a nail. That’s how the song goes.

It was 3:30 in the afternoon and I was on my way to the biggest hospital in my country. I must admit, I was foolishly–naively–thinking I’d be out of there by 5:00 to carry on with the research for my upcoming book. Never celebrate early, it just won’t work, that’s what my dad says. My coworker was waiting for me in the lobby and we walked into the operating room with motivation and determination.

I’ve never been able to explain it but I’ll try: I really don’t feel I’m crossing a barrier when I enter an operating hall. I mean that’s the so-called “most sterile” part of a hospital, right? And still, I just walked in, changed my clothes and stepped into the “clean area” looking like an oversized leprechaun with a hairnet and gloves. There wasn’t any control, any restrictions and it doesn’t make me feel right. All I could feel was the air getting colder, life being drained out and all emotion being put to the side.

It’s a long hallway—white tiles on the floor so that blood stands out, glass all around giving the place no sense of security, no sense of shelter, silence all around so machines can warn of any upcoming death—and operating rooms to the left and to the right. There’s no way to avoid them.

There it was, resting against the wall like a passenger waiting for the subway, our target: the cursed operating table. For about two years now we’ve been struggling with this table and its record isn’t exactly pristine. Five patients have died (no blame on the table), it gets jammed in the mornings and won’t hold its position in the afternoons and moves with free will. Doctors hate it and it’s not my best friend either.

We just looked at it, I like to do that before actually opening it up. Sometimes, with the simplest gaze, one can find out the most complex of problems. This time though, it wasn’t the case. We had had a report of nuances including a jammed elevator, a stuck brake on the wheels and a wobbly leg supporter and we decided to attack the “easiest problem”: the stuck brake.

Thirty minutes passed. The air got colder, my head actually hurt—a piercing pain shooting from the back of my head to the front—and I cursed not having lunch.

That damned brake would release. I was pretty sure that, if I could just get one more inch, just one, of visibility I could sneak in a screwdriver and release the spring. But the brakes are covered by a stainless steel shroud and I had two choices: either rest my head on an operating room floor or lift a machine that weighed up four hundred pounds—and do that with a bad back. I resisted both. I did everything: I used my cellphone camera to get an idea of the issue but nothing; I tried feeling the problem but couldn’t get anything but gunk and dirt.

I exhaled in frustration while my partner told me he wanted to give it a go.

Forty minutes had passed. My headache was now unbearable. The research for my book (consisting of an interview to an amputee) was now becoming a farfetched reality. My body demanded fuel. And that damned brake would not move.

My partner leaned back, literally sat down on the floor and exhaled, copying my gesture.

Fifty minutes had passed. The ten minutes we had conversed about possible solutions had been useless. No solution seemed worthy of a try. There just wasn’t any area.

Sixty minutes. The patient in the operating room next door had just been sedated. In about two hours his leg will be completely sawed off. My partner came up with a solution that required great effort. We had to life the table and put a support below and that way we would have precious inches to work with. He chose to lift it. I chose not to oppose him. We both inhaled, he braced for a comfortable position and humph-ed the chair into the air—or just two inches—I quickly slid the support just when he pulled his fingers free. One more second and they would’ve been chopped off. Success, we had lifted it.

I took a look at the brake. The spring was jammed and I thought: “if I get my screwdriver there and undo the whole system, I can clean the gunk, blood and protein, then rebuild the system and test it.” But the access was small, a gap of two inches maximum. I’d had to rest my head on the floor and, though it had been cleaned, hospital clean isn’t really clean at all. And so, I leaned my head as much as I could, my neck stiffened as it struggled to keep me from the vile invisible demons that lurk in the deceiving white tiles. I would feel them crawling towards me, wanting to stick to my skin and then seep slowly through my pores: flu, leptospirosis, MRSA, you name it and it was there. Suddenly I stopped breathing as if that would help. Then I hissed. I was wearing a mask.

A working surface at the hospital

Hospital “clean”

I fought to get that sharp edge inside, it was just microns away, I could feel the screw and I swore it had actually turned but my hand trembled, my fingers cramped, the position was just too uncomfortable. Dammit, I had to give up.

I rested on my knees and looked at my partner with surrendered eyes.

In him I saw the opposite: in a surge of determination he disappeared. Seconds later he was back: in his hands were a can of WD40 and a hammer. He gently shoved me out of the way, then emptied half of the WD40 on the brake. After inhaling the “enlightening” fumes, he aimed at the brake. It was literally make or break: if he missed, the dent on the table would be impossible to hide.

He swung the hammer and put every drop of strength into it. I could see the forearm flex, his veins pop out and his eyes shrug with effort. The bang was so loud the doctors on the other operating room actually peeked to see if something had happened. Silence followed.

For seconds.

Pop! The brake unjammed.

A hammer and WD40 can be the best tools in the world.

We left at 5:45 pm.