Sunday, August 14, 2016

Where are you, Molly?

Reading Michael Crichton's Travels brings back memories. The first section of the book is from his student days at Harvard. He tells of his frustrations with the system, the disappointments caused by the way doctors viewed cases, and his own indecision whether to continue with medical school at all. Some of the portraits are haunting, presenting that particular underworld of the hospital as its own universe with the patients being at the top looking down, but mostly not looking down at all. 

Once upon a time I was a patient at a major hospital in Bombay, and I was the kind who did look down, so to speak. That humming world of doctors, nurses and attendants, their strangely technical language and of course that mostly thankless job they was all fascinating. 

I remember in particular a nurse named Molly. She was in charge one night when I had to take a dose of pills at midnight. I can still see her sitting at her table at the head of the ward, everything in ghostly white light, even her uniform glowing under that ersatz moonlight. Molly had an especially nice smile, and she would flash it all across the ward at regular intervals. Everyone liked her. 

When it came time for me to take the pills, Molly came over to help me. This pill-taking was quite a task, I remember, but she had the patience of an angel; rather, the patience of a nurse. She brought me extra water and patted my back. She told me to breathe. When I finally downed the last pill, she stroked my hair and laid me with such gentleness back on the bed that I got tears in my eyes. 

She saw them. She held my hand for a long minute and very softly, breathed a short prayer. Then she smiled and went back to her station. 

That moment between us has stayed with me for more than a decade. I wonder how many others have some such memory of Molly. Where is she now?

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