Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Death certificates and the maiden

Dr Hu's luck changed recently. And it's well deserved, too - he's an excellent RMO, and a pleasant fellow to be near, and a deeply decent human being. Smart, hard-working, easy to get on with, consistently cheerful and kind. It's about time something good happened to him, so I was pleased when four of his patients died last week.

I should explain. For a start, they aren't his patients, in the sense that he was not solely or even primarily responsible for their care. He is the RMO, almost the lowest rung on the ICU ladder, and all the (very) simple decisions are made by me and the (remotely) complicated ones by the consultants.

And it's not like these patients weren't expected to die - a certain proportion of the patients in the ICU are patients around whom much activity occurs - glowing screens, beeping monitors, blood and drugs being pumped in and out of tubes - but for whom not much can actually be done. There is a subset of ICU patients who come into the hospital so unwell that all we can do is forestall death until - and herein is often the problem - until the relatives and perhaps even the patient have had time to accept the diagnosis. All of Dr Hu's patients who died were of this category.

And when they do die it is often Dr Hu's job to do the death certificate, and then every morning someone from Records comes up and collects the death certificate.

Here's where Dr Hu considers himself fortunate. Because he is quiet and unassuming and polite, but he is also a man, and the death certificate babe is - well, she's quite clearly a babe.

I am serious about this. I recently entered that age where you look at nineteen year olds in closefitting skirts and blouses and think about how they must be cold, what with all this weather we've been having, and similar geriatric sentiments, but Dr Hu is young. And the death certificate babe has long glossy black hair and wears calf-high boots and a snug woolen skirt and every time Dr Hu sees her he blushes and smiles so much he could charm the dead.

He's much too shy to start anything. But she seems friendly, and lately he's managed to strike up some sort of a conversation, and she seems to laugh at his jokes and look forward to seeing him. It may be that something is starting to go on.

But time is short. Dr Hu's next rotation is orthopaedic, and nobody (usually) dies on ortho. He won't see her from one month to the next. What he really needs is a run of luck - good for him, perhaps (or perhaps not) less good for the patients - so that he can, in medical terms, "establish a rapport" and "construct a therapeutic alliance". Hopefully before that blonde guy from Palliative Care can, although Dr Hu has heard and hopes he might be gay.

Anyway. I've been helping where I can, giving him my death certificates to sign, and I suspect all fo the doctors and most of the nurses are secretly or not-so-secretly barracking* for him. There's not a lot else we can ethically do - I remain confident that none of our staff would go to the extent of making sure that someone dies on Dr Hu's shift as opposed to another doctor's, although the thought has clearly occurred to some of us. All we can really do is keep our fingers crossed for the young lovers and hope that the current harsh winter continues.

Thanks for listening,

*Barracking in Australia means "cheering, supporting, encouraging" - one barracks for a football team. In America this is called rooting. In Australia rooting is engaging in sexual intercourse. As sevral of our sports stars have previously shown, they may need us to barrack for them but the other they are managing quite fine on their own.


Blogger Benedict 16th said...

Rooting ah yes, which is why the Koala - is so respected by the men-folk down-under..

What does a Koala do?

Eats, roots, shoots and leaves.


10:11 PM  
Blogger Ladyk73 said...


I love romantic stories!

Being from New York (Niagara Falls)...I am going to "root" for him.


11:17 PM  
Blogger Camilla said...

Here in NL we would say: "Hup, Hu, hup!" I don't know what they call it though - steunen maybe.


11:38 PM  

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