The siren beeping ambulances are a common sight at The Saints Hospital in the bustling city of Milwaukee in the state of Wisconsin. The exuberance of the city owing to being primarily a transport-oriented community contributes to the high trauma rate reported at the hospital. The Saints Hospital stood the test of time and emerged as a symbol of trust for its citizens.
Amidst the daily cacophony it would have been easy to miss the dainty little girl stumbling inside the emergency room, but for the keen eyes of Dr Matthew. His eagle gaze earned him the title of ‘The Hawk’ by his juniors. He glared at the girl clutching her forehead with one hand and leaning on the door knob with the other, never once losing her from sight thereby justifying his title. Strangely she seemed in distress but unaccompanied.
“Thud!” His glance had missed the girl just for a second while he attended to another patient. He knew without turning that the girl required immediate attention.
“Gurney. “bellowed a doctor. The frail, now unconscious girl was hauled onto the gurney and wheeled in for examination. The sight of that little girl alone tugged at Dr Matthew’s heart.
The day whizzed past like any other day at the emergency room. The angelic-eyed girl was now conscious but repeatedly complaining of headache and nausea. All awaited the results of the scans. A surgeon for last twenty-five years, Dr. Matthew sensed a story cascaded behind those dewy eyes. He didn’t wish to alarm her with sudden movements so he moved slowly towards her.
” Hey, how are you feeling little girl?” He asked calmly. “What’s your name? Can I get you something?”
“Good evening sir, my name is Joanie. The pain was too much to bear. I tried. Are my parents coming? “she sobbed. Her tear drenched face reflected fear, confusion, apprehension, and sliver of self-doubt. Dr Matthew wondered as to why a girl all of eight years would be so disillusioned. The absence of her parents added to the mystery. “Aren’t they already here? Don’t worry Joanie, we’ll get them right away.”
Joanie was inconsolable. ” I am scared, daddy won’t be happy.” Dr. Matthew got perplexed, a shade more. It was incomprehensible to see a child in pain, more worried about her parents’ reaction than her health. This mystery needed to unravel.
Dr Matthew being a paediatric surgeon, ordered for Joanie’s reports. As he awaited the reports and for her parents to arrive, Dr. Matthew caressed Joanie’s forehead to comfort her.
Dr. Kevin the young resident posted in emergency room awaited Joanie’s result outside the pathology laboratory. All of twenty-five he aspired to be a surgeon of repute. He walked with a spring in his step dreaming of that day. He had chosen plastic surgery as his specialization as it was the most sought after accompanied by name, fame and money. Another month was left for his duty to end in paediatrics and he looked forward to it. It was a taxing and a depressing branch.
“Thanks a bunch, Mark”. Dr Kevin shouted over the scans as he sprang towards Dr Matthew’s room. Sifting through the scans Dr Kevin’s steps faltered “No, I shouldn’t reach to conclusions. I am just a resident and so may be wrong in my diagnosis “he reflected. Without a further spring in his step and wishing to be declared wrong, he made his way towards Dr Matthew. Days like this strengthened his decision to select a less strenuous speciality. Treating suffering children was tough.
Dr Matthew had spent a better half of his life teaching the residents and understanding what went through the minds of these aspiring young doctors. One look at his most promising resident Dr Kevin was enough to make him realize what lay ahead.
“Sir Joanie’s scans.” said Dr. Kevin handing them over.
“What’s your diagnosis Dr.?” enquired the senior.
“Sir, I am unsure.” came the feeble reply.
“Unsure? “retorted Dr. Matthew. ” What kind of surgeon shall you be if you are unsure of your diagnosis?” He heard his voice trail away as he realised that Dr Kevin knew the diagnosis but was scared to put them to words.
“Glioma, a tumour of the brain impinging on the brain tissue thus causing headaches”. Such days made him realise that his retirement was near. “An eight-year old with a brain tumour, where is God busy?” He got no reply.
The usual buzzing of beeping monitors was disturbed by the cacophony loud enough to rouse Dr Matthew from his slumber in the doctor’s room. He rushed out to witness a congregation in a verbal duel with Dr Kevin.
“Hey! Please stop shouting. This is a hospital, maintain your sanity. Healing is in progress.” hollered Dr Matthew at the top of his lungs.
“Who are you all? Is it about a patient?” he demanded.
Dr. Kevin perturbed by the gathering’s outburst didn’t realize where he went wrong. “Dr. Matthew they are Joanie’s parents. When I informed them about her condition and our treatment plan, they objected to it and are forcefully taking the child against our advice. I have never in my lifetime seen parents denying treatment to their child. “exclaimed Kevin. Bizarre it may sound to many but Dr Matthew’s gray hair stood knowingly. ” Kevin I shall handle this.”, he informed all and walked away.
Chants of the holy bible ranted in the air. Dr Matthew became a part of the congregation for a minute exhibiting his solidarity and then addressed the gathering, “Mrs and Mr Newman, Joanie has a brain tumor. It is rapidly progressing and invading her brain due to which she is having headaches and nausea. If we do not surgically remove it as soon as possible it can permanently impair her vision or cause paralysis and even death. She needs immediate intervention. We need your consent.”
“God’s infinite power and goodness realized in prayer and action, heals. Our daughter is a child of God and so would tread his path. She shall be healed by the Call of God.” declared Mr. Newman. “No medication or surgery shall be administered to her. We have known her condition for long and don’t believe in your treatment. We are the followers of The Saints Bread ministry and are not allowed to pursue any form of treatment.”
Dr Matthew went ashen at the enormity of the situation. “Mr. Newman.” he retorted “I respect your beliefs, and have no right to hinder your right to leave but Joanie’s condition requires intervention, it is not self-healing.”
“No!” bellowed Mr. Newman “None comes in my path. I have all right to take my daughter and walk out of this hospital.”
Dr Matthew was beside himself with anger. He looked around the group to find an understanding soul but none relented. His eyes rested on Joanie’s grandfather. His eyes reflected the pain and despair but he too was pulled away outside the hospital by his son.
Dr Matthew realized he had lost the battle even before they had begun. He asked for forgiveness from his God, that he couldn’t help the child. He hugged Joanie hard and wondered whether God had sent this child to make him realise that he can’t save all. Probably some lives don’t matter to God as well. At that moment he stopped loving his God.
“Joanie, be brave. Try hard and if the pain is still unbearable my child, try harder and remember I am right here.” He had just signed her death sentence. He slammed the door behind him to shun the call of God, who made little children suffer. Mr. Newman and The Christ Bread ministry took a life that could have been saved.
Almost a month had elapsed and memories of Joanie had been taken over by fresh call of duty and pain. Dr Kevin had since then found his hero in Dr Matthew who had stood up for the rights of his patient. The student-teacher bond grew stronger. It was a quiet morning when suddenly in sauntered Joanie dishevelled, heaving and banging onto everything coming in her path. The paramedics ran towards her, to hold her and calm her down.
“Dr Mathew. Dr Matthew, I tried hard but couldn’t tolerate the pain. I am sorry.” Joanie kept babbling.
Dr Matthew scooped her in his arms and suddenly realised that Joanie could hardly see. She was disoriented which meant that the tumour had invaded vital nerves. Joanie in this condition had run to him for help and this time he wouldn’t deny her.
The first line of treatment was started and so did the discussion of her parents’ cultural beliefs. Their hands were tied as her cultural beliefs did not allow any intervention, made explicitly clear by her parents. They decided to wait for the parents to come but none did. BEEP, BEEP the monitor went wild. Joanie had had a seizure. It was now a matter of life and death.
Dr Matthew took the call. “This is a medical emergency. My religion is medicine which made me vow that I shall strive to save every life that comes to me for help, as every life matters. So off we go to the operating room.” The medical team rejoiced as someone had the audacity to word the thought that resonated in everyone’s mind.
Joanie was successfully operated upon and what remained was healing.
Almost twenty-four hours had passed since Joanie’s surgery but her family had not reported thus the social security was informed. Just as Joanie regained consciousness her joy of being able to see was greeted by angry commotion outside. Dr Matthew held on to her hand, both giving each other strength to face the commotion that lay ahead.
Mr. Newman was hooting like a boiling pot. “I shall sue the hospital; I had made it evidently clear that we shall not pursue your treatment. The hospital should have informed us. My religion does not allow my family to have any surgery. I curse you that you shall rot in hell! “hollered Mr. Newman.
Dr Matthew remained stoic and calm. He replied in a measured tone “I followed my religion and saved your daughter. You follow yours and curse me. My religion tells me to save every life that comes to me and I shall follow my belief till my dying day. As to me every life matters.”
The calm after the storm is the time for reflection. The Newman tribe though disgruntled and unhappy realized that their daughter was alive and healthy. Maybe this was what God desired. And thus ended the agitation.
Dr. Kevin had discovered the purpose of his life. That very moment he decided to follow the footsteps of his epitome. He no longer wished to acquire money but wanted to be worthy enough to save every life that comes to him for help. Not to discriminate between patients on the basis of colour, culture, and beliefs as all lives matter.
Time moved on, however one link of the story was missing and bothered Dr. Matthew. Joanie was due for her monthly check-up that day. He was determined to find the missing piece of the puzzle so that his mind could be at rest.
Due the tumultuous history between Dr. Matthew and Joanie’s father, Joanie was accompanied by Mr. Newman Sr. her grandfather, for her reviews.
Smiling, giggling, and chirping Joanie was a spectacle to watch. Her eyes danced with mischief and pure adoration when they met Dr Matthew’s. Her clear scans were celebrated with an ice-cream with Dr Kevin.
In the meantime, Dr. Matthew asked Mr. Newman Sr. the question that had been bothering him. ” I have wondered and tried my best to find answers which you can help me with.”
” Certainly Dr. Matthew I would be happy to help.” replied Joanie’s grandfather.
“The first day Joanie came to us, she was in pain and somehow found her way to the hospital. However, the second time when she reached the hospital, she was unable to see well enough. I have often wondered as to how she made her way to the hospital on her own. Unless someone helped her.” prodded Dr Matthew.
“Haha..” Mr. Newman Sr. had a hearty laugh. “I have wondered when you would ask the question though I hoped it was not before my son.”
He reflected “You see Dr. Matthew we are all bound by our religion and beliefs. Your religion is medicine, and my belief is to save humanity. I believe right to live supersedes the right of the religion of parents. The child shall chooser her religion and beliefs herself as my son has.”
“So, when I noticed her condition worsening, I formulated a plan and send my son and daughter-in-law for a religious congregation out of town. Then I dropped Joanie outside the hospital and told her to ask for you. Did you notice God’s plan? He made me hand over Joanie to you at the right time. Had I accompanied her and got her operate, my son would have never forgiven me. As of now he accepts it as an ACT OF GOD.” explained Mr. Newman.
The puzzle was solved. Mr. Newman Sr. concluded as he walked away “I believed in you, your religion and the oath you took Dr Matthew. Joanie and every other living being has a right to live a happy life irrespective of their religion, beliefs and colour. Your God is kind Dr Matthew as for him all lives matters.”
Many religious sects routinely reject healthcare on theological grounds, some being Christian scientists and Jehovah witnesses. My effort is not to discredit anyone’ beliefs but to highlight the plight of those people who get caught in this web unwillingly.
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