Death's Remedy, Prologue: The New Patient

The New Patient

One thing about hospitals is the way they seem welcoming and yet at the same time foreboding. It’s a place where people who are sick get cured, diseases are eradicated and every now then, where miracles happen. Yet when you’re a doctor, working at this so-called higher institute of healing, you see a completely darker side to medicine.

Our power of healing is limited. It’s inevitable. People suffer in pain, people question why, people scream, people die. And as a doctor, you have to face all of that every single day.

The worse part of it was that as a doctor, you had to deliver bad news. That was exactly what crossed the mind of Harper Hospital’s diagnostician, Dr. John Gillian. He hoped that at least, he wouldn’t have to give any today. Unfortunately, he had.

“Hey, Elliot,” he called towards the nurse that passed by his office. “Did the tests from Hematology and the biopsy come in yet?”

“Yes, Dr. Gillian,” the young intern formally replied. “I have the tests right here.”

He said a quick thank you and consulted the charts. At first, he tried to stay optimistic (a futile attempt), but as he scanned through the numbers on the blood test results, his face fell.

Thankfully, it was then a beautiful woman in her early thirties walked the hallway pushing a baby stroller towards him. “Hey, honey,” greeted his wife with a kiss on the cheek. “Ready for lunch?”
It was nearing noon, Dr. Gillian’s scheduled time for lunch break. According to protocol, doctors should always put their patients first. That included delivering medical updates ASAP.

“Absolutely,” he answered, placing the charts on top of his desk. That could wait until later. His break was only 30 minutes anyway.

“Joanie said her first word today,” reported his wife, Reina. They found a table for two amongst the medical staff that occupied the cafeteria.

Usually, any talk about his dear baby girl would lift his spirits up, but after this morning it didn’t really help. “What did she say?” the doctor asked in a neutral tone as he picked his sandwich, a tray of food between them.

She instantly took his hand. “What’s wrong, sweetie?”

He dabbed some mustard off the corner of my mouth with a napkin, and hesitantly scrunched it up into a ball. A part of him loved how she was the only one who can see through him. “It’s work. Apparently, it’s my job to keep on giving bad news.”

“Come on, you’ve done it tons of times before.”

“But I don’t think I can do this one patient.”

“Why, is it someone we know?” asked Reina panicked.

John squeezed her hand for reassurance. “She’s twelve.”

“Oh,” was all she managed to say.

For a few seconds, Dr. Gillian’s eyes wandered to the baby stroller beside their table. Sleeping peacefully with her thin baby hair was the small angelic blessing given to him, Joanie. She had turned 1-year-old just days before. What if this patient was her…?

“Why’d I ever become a doctor?” he sighed solemnly.

“Why?” his wife repeated, appalled. “You became a doctor, because you wanted to help people. To save lives. One of those lives was your brother’s. Don’t ever forget that.”

Despite his melancholy, he smiled. “I hope he hasn’t forgotten that either.”

Suddenly, his pager rang. “Gotta go. They need me.”

John Gillian stood up and hugged his wife farewell. Leaning down into the baby stroller, he gently kissed his baby girl on the forehead. “Have a nice nap, Joanie,” he whispered to her.

He came running towards his office moments later. “What’s up?”

By his desk was a fellow doctor named Dr. Freed. He was talking to a thin, weary looking woman before he interrupted. “John, finally you’re here.”

“Well, I am entitled to a lunch break now and then,” he pointed out as he sat down in his swivel chair. “Who is this, if I may ask?”

“This is Mrs. Letum, the mother of your patient that got admitted here this morning.”

“Ah, I see. Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Letum.” Out of common courtesy, John held his hand out. She shook it somewhat reluctantly.

“What are the results of your diagnosis?” she asked a bit timidly, as if she was frightened of the answer.

“Well…” John let out a sigh. Was there any easier way to say this? “The blood test has confirmed a massive number in her WBC count and presence of RS cells in her biopsy. She has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”

John held his breathe as he waited for Mrs. Letum to respond to the heart-breaking news. “Cancer…?” she whispered weakly.

“Yes,” was all John said, not trusting himself to say anything more.

The expression in Mrs. Letum face showed deep disbelief and desperation. Her eyes began to water slightly, but she managed to compose herself and ask, “Have you told my daughter yet?”

“Not yet. Would you like me to tell her the news?” John thought it was the right thing to offer. He could never stand having to diagnose is own child with such a deadly disease. But in a sense, he was tired of giving more bad news.

Mrs. Letum nodded, her expression changing to that of calm and understanding, probably to hide her concern and worry in front of her little girl. John led her to Remedy Letum’s hospital room, discussing possible treatments. Soon they reached a semi-private room with no other current occupants thus leaving it all to herself.

As Dr. Gillian’s hand touched the doorknob, Mrs. Letum reached out for it. “Before you go in there, I think there’s something I need to tell you, Doctor.”

“If it concerns Remedy, then by all means. The more information, the better we can treat her.”

“Well…” The fatigued mother’s gaze wandered to the floor, as if she was embarrassed about what she was going to reveal. “Remedy has a bit of an… imagination. A bit high up there, I suppose.”

John could see where this was going. He had experienced a few cases with younger patients. “What, does she have an imaginary friend? A bit uncommon for a girl her age, but not that strange.”

It seemed that John’s assumption was right on the money, but only made Mrs. Letum’s brow crease with worry. “Yes, she has an imaginary friend,” she confirmed. “But the thing is… she says she can see Death.”


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