I am depressed.
I cannot pretend otherwise.
I have just spent the last 5 days in bed,looking at the ceiling and thinking about my life...and TMBGITW who I miss so much it feels like my trachea has been pulled out of my chest...I gasp for breath at the thought of never seeing her again.
...and my friends and colleagues and arbitrary acquaintances have all said the most stupid,asinine and generally unhelpful things to me...from... 'There are plenty of fish in the sea' to...my favourite (not) 'The quickest way to get over a woman is to get get another one under you!'
All I really want is for someone to say...very simply..."I'm sorry"....that's all..."I'm sorry"...and perhaps to buy me a cup of coffee or cook me a meal or lend me a funny dvd...send me some flowers even.
And because I'm depressed and contemplative I have of course been thinking about death...and all of the patients who died around me...in truth...there are some patients I think of daily...and ,-atheist that I am-,still say a prayer for...
No matter how many lives you touch...how many people you save...for me...its always been about those I've lost...or could not help
And naturally I've thought about the lies and platitudes I've told to relatives..."he didn't feel any pain"..."it was a quick death"..."he didn't suffer"..."we did everything we could do"
There was a time in the late 1980's and early 1990's just after I had written a book about children and death,that I became the corpse whisperer at the Jo'burg Gen...the person who was asked to break bad news
It was always after hours when I would be asked to take a family down to the mortuary so that they could identify or pay their respects to their loved one...
The Porter and I would peel back the brittle plastic shroud ,bracing ourselves against the smell of hot liver that permeates even the coldest corpse...and try to make the person look 'normal'...but the corpse always looked scared or frightened or in pain or simply, surprised.
No one who dies a violent or unexpected death ever looks normal or peaceful.
That only comes later thanks to the artistry of the undertaker.
Occasionally their eyes would be frozen open and you felt their unforgiving stare...that you were alive and they were not ...as you tried to wipe the crystalline jewels of frozen blood from their face...or hand...so that their family could kiss them goodbye.
There are 3 patients I have never forgotten.
The first was a suicide call.In the early 1980's I was working for the Ambulance Division of the Johannesburg Fire Department and we were standing-by at the Jo'burg Gen one warm summer evening at about 18h30,when we got a call to a block of flats about 2 minutes away...2 minutes with lights-and-sirens.
When we got to the scene a policeman told us that a woman had been seen to fall from a fifth floor window...and had landed on the roof of the adjoining ground-floor parking garage...so she had fallen 4 floors.
The inevitable Zulu night-watchman showed us how to get to the roof.
A beautiful blond woman in her 20's was lying face down on the roof.She was wearing a pretty cotton nightdress and matching dressing gown.She was very much dead.
Some bystanders pointed to the flat they thought she had jumped or perhaps fallen from and 5 minutes later I was knocking on the door accompanied by a cop.
Another beautiful blond woman in her 20's opened the door,drying her hands on a tea towel.A blue tea towel.
"Hello...I'm Lucien...I'm a nurse with the Fire Department...this is Sgt. vd Merwe with Hillbrow Police...sorry to trouble you...but does anyone live here with you?"
She looked at me like I was crazy...clearly I was a fireman,dressed in all the correct gear...clearly my colleague was a cop
Only my sister...shes been in Tara (psychiatric) hospital for a few weeks...I picked her up today...shes in the bathroom brushing her teeth....we've just had some dinner...Why? Whats wrong?
"Are you sure she is in the bathroom? Could I please just check?"
Why? Whats wrong?
"Please ...just let us in for a few minutes...come with me to the bathroom..."
The bathroom was empty...the window wide open...and her sister was 4 floors below covered in a red wool JFD blanket.
The second patient was also a suicide,called in as a heart attack
A Friday lunchtime call.
This older man had just gone through a divorce;lost his house; and become unemployed and was staying with his sister and brother-in-law.
He was a physically small man...he had perhaps the build and weight of a jockey.
His sister had gone out to do the shopping....this being in the days before 24/7 shopping...
...and so this man had a last cup of coffee and smoked a last pipe...
Then he hammered a screwdriver into the top of a sturdy door,attached a thin leather noose to the cord and jumped off of a chair.
His toes were probably only an inch or two from the ground...but it was enough.
The third patient was a child of about 8 years old,brought into the Children's Casualty one winters night at about 23h00.He was a nameless and unknown 'street kid'...and had been huddled over an open fire in a steel drum when some sick bastard ran up and sprayed him and some other children and the drum with petrol.He got the brunt of the attack.
He had over 90% burns really...and he screamed a lot.
A lot really.
The anaesthetist managed to get a line in his scalp..and he was given some morphine...and I sat and held what had been his hand until he died.
His body was never claimed and I think he was buried as 'unknown black child alpha/date'
So the thing is this...platitudes never work...for the family or for the staff...just say that you're sorry.
I know some readers think I write this blog as entertainment...legally I have to say that...
Actually ...most days...I write it to remind myself that I exist.