Someone asked my yesterday: “Affected ka?”
I raised an eyebrow.
Two weeks ago, I was at the ER transferring blood from a syringe to a tube when my phone rang. It was one of the IM residents telling me that my presence was requested at the Morbidity and Mortality Conference of the Department of Surgery. The conference was about a case of a patient who was initially seen by the Internal Medicine Department. I was the intern who followed up the patient at the ER. After 24 hours he was admitted by the Department of Surgery as a case of ruptured appendicitis.The patient had cardiac arrest at the OR table before the appendectomy even started. He died after 12 hours.
I wanted the ground to swallow me right there. I know what it is about and why I am called to be there. I floated through the hospital lobby, feeling cold and heavy inside. I opened the white wooden door to the Director’s conference room where approximately 50 people stared at me as I stood in front —-residents and consultants from Surgery, Anesthesia and Internal Medicine.
One of the surgeons in front waved a paper—- an ER chart with my penmanship.
It was a pseudo court interrogation. Geez,even an intern is not spared from a medical audit.
“Doctor, when you wrote the order in the chart to refer the patient to the Department of Surgery where did you take the chart?”
I left it at the nurses at the station. (It’s ER protocol at the hospital that nurses are responsible for inter-departmental ER referrals)
“So, you did not give it directly to a surgical resident?”
“How about the 2nd time you wrote in the chart to refer the patient to surgery, did you refer directly to a surgical resident?”
Your face flashed in my head. Our conversations—both medical and personal rushed in my head. I wished there was some way you can read my mind. If I tell the truth, I know that I you will never look or speak to me the same way again. This will change everything. I have no choice. I’m doing what any intern would have done.
Yes, I referred to a surgical resident.
“Can you tell us or point to us the surgical resident that you referred the case to?”
I searched the room and I knew you were not there.
I can feel my heart sinking as I said your name.
I wish you knew how hard it was to say your name.I cannot lie. I was called to speak as an intern and not your friend. I wish I could not have been both to make things easier.
Then you entered the room. You were asked to face me.
” Did you receive a referral from this internal medicine intern about this patient?”
Here comes your verbal slap on my face.
“So you deny that you had a conversation with her about this patient while you were on-duty?”
“We never had a conversation about this patient that night.”
So here we are, face to face and contradicting each others’ statements . Funny, last night we were supposed to have dinner together and talked about meeting today so I can fix your laptop’s media player.
Here we are face to face, glaring at each other.
I am shattered.
The price for telling the truth is a broken friendship.
It’s a sick irony.