Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
– Buddhist proverb
Every child needs to be safe and feel the abundance in life. As a surgeon, it is my responsibility to take care of my patients. A young girl was referred to me for surgical evaluation and management. She went through lots of sufferings that it kept me awake at wee hours of the night. Because of indecisiveness and ignorance, her life almost came to an end.
Maye (not her real name) is an 8-year old girl, who came to the emergency room because of difficulty of breathing. She was admitted for pneumonia and abdominal pain. Based on her clinical history, her abdominal pain started 10 days prior to admission. She was referred to our service after having persistent abdominal pain despite analgesia and medical management. Upon examination, she was found to have an acute abdomen probably secondary to a ruptured appendicitis.
The little girl’s ordeal was aggravated by the indecisiveness of the father to give consent for his daughter to undergo the most needed operation. Despite the exhaustive explanation and repeated persuasion, the father was adamant about his decision not to allow her daughter to undergo surgical intervention. The entire surgical team was put on hold because there was no consent to proceed with the operation. Maye’s life was hanging by a thread. Our hands were tied. Without her father’s consent, we can only watch and wait. The agony of waiting is excruciating as the uncertainty prolongs the grief in us. Every second counts. Every life is important. The painful struggle of knowing you can help and do something, but you can’t. Meanwhile, the little girl awaits a decision not by choice but by a judgement whether she dies or lives another day to tell her own story.
We are not God. We don’t dictate who will live and who will die. We are just servants of God. With this gift of surgical skills and knowledge, we are here to help and save lives in the best way we can…
Maye’s ordeal and suffering continued as we delay the surgery because the father was not keen on signing the consent form. Every second counts, every single moment of delay is tantamount to a death sentence for the helpless little girl.
Thankfully, other relatives came to the hospital to better understand the situation that their relative is in. After explaining the situation and the need for surgical intervention the hesitant father finally gave his consent for the surgery to proceed.
Immediately, we brought the girl to the operating room. She underwent exploratory laparotomy. She has pus all over her abdomen because of a ruptured appendix.
Her recovery was slow and painful. She had atelectasis of the left lung because of her limited deep breathing which was aggravated by the post-operative discomfort. Furthermore, her recovery was exacerbated by infection which has spread to her blood due to delays in her operation. With this, she needs broad spectrum antibiotics to help fight the infection.
She stayed in the hospital for about a week. Her recuperation was slow and agonizing. But Maye is a fighter. She is tough, she is strong. She wants to live a life full of joy, and not of pain and sorrow. Eventually, with God’s grace and mercy, she became stronger and stronger each day. Getting back her appetite and the strength to get out of bed. Enduring the struggle in every step she took with the assistance of her supportive relatives who stood by her side. She eventually recovered and was discharged from the hospital.
On her follow-up in the OPD, she gave me the sweetest smile that I would never forget. Her way of saying, “thank you”. Seeing Maye fully recovered from her ordeal and near-death experience made me wonder. How many more like more like her need to suffer unnecessarily before getting the needed surgical treatment? How many more parents are depriving their children the gift of life that they deserve? How many more ill-informed fathers are withholding consent for the essential surgical treatment of their children?
Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Our children need not endure this misery. Stop the inhumane suffering of our children who are the future of our nation. We can do something about it. Help is here. Our future depends on what we do now. How we treat our children today will dictate how we will live our life tomorrow. Let’s start giving the life that they deserve. A life of delight and hope for the next generation.