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"I AM FINE, ANA"

Odler Robert Jeanlouie, MD









It is one of these days when nothing works. Nothing works. Why did I even leave my bed, in the first place? I slept too little; I am yawning. I want to sleep. My shoulder blades are hurting. What a terrible day? Later, I have to give an unscheduled lecture, off the cuff;  the other guy is not coming, I was told last evening. Out of bed, I read my emails, two deliveries I am expecting will not be done. My new shoes are hurting; well, a little, but why do they have to hurt at all? I forgot to fill up, I wonder if I am going to run out of gas in the midst of traffic. That would be embarrassing and annoying. Out of the highway, the first station does not take American Express. What do you mean you don't take American Express?  The television commercial says: "Don't leave home without it". Doesn't it? I don't care about your little meager nugatory gas station, I am going to the next one. I hope I do not stall before reaching it. At Dunkin's Donut, they don't have hot chocolate, today, only today. Why in the world, you did not fix the machine, or make sure you have enough chocolate for today? What am I supposed to do now, without my daily chocolate fix? Coffee?  No madam,  I do not drink coffee. I repeat, I do not drink coffee. Just make sure, that you get hot chocolate tomorrow and croissant to go with it. No, I don't want croissant without chocolate. What is so difficult for you to understand? I cannot park; and it is not even 7:00 o'clock yet. People have been parking where they should not. I must drive two floors up to park on the third floor. Why? Then, I must walk to the elevator. Why do they let people park where they are not supposed to? Incompetence of the administration? Inadequacy of the security services?  By any mean, someone's ineptitude.  You never know, the Mafia may be involved in procuring illegal parking spots to people who swear to omerta. Or maybe the streets gangs are doing it.  I am telling you, my life stinks. Eight people in one elevator. Eight in one. That is 12.5% elevator space per person. Among them that big woman with a big bag and a big posterior. I am squeezed. I am getting off. Excuse me. I am telling you, this place, this city, this state, Washington, the world, everything is run by incompetent quidams. No one does his job. How do they let eight people in one elevator? There should be a sign, a people counter, a camera, a guard. And that big woman, with the big derriere, she should be arrested, and charged with unlawful occupation of public space. Nothing works, I am telling you, everything is terrible. My life stinks. I enter Ana's room, she is lying in bed, somnolent. She is 42-year old. She was in excellent health till last year when she was found to have a cancer of the cervix of the uterus. She has three children. The youngest one is 8; he is a boy, her only boy. She is now in the intensive care unit. Pictures of her family, of her friends at work, are arranged on her head table. Ana's two daughters are beautiful. Two dozens get well cards are taped on the wall. Ana is dying. She lost 40 lbs. She looks like the bone left from the picture at her bedside. Just bone and skin. She lost her beautiful free flowing Columbian hair, she is bald to the effects of chemotherapy. She has tubes spilling out from all orifices. She is fed through a catheter inserted in her neck. Last week, she stopped breathing because of the metastases in her lungs, that is when she was taken to the ICU.  She was on the breathing machine for five days; yesterday, she was taken off if. For how long? She is in pain. She pushes weakly on the button of her morphine drip. Once. Twice. She had three operations. Nothing can be done; all cancer inside. She will be dead next month. Her children will be orphans. Her husband will be a widower caretaker of three kids, having to restart it all over again. A family structure will be destroyed. Three children will be damaged forever. And Ana will be out of pain. I say: "Good morning, Ana". I am here before because her kidneys have shut down, she is no longer making urine. She will need dialysis. She is in pain, she was vomiting all last night, bloody vomiting at times. She has no hope. And, now her kidneys are not working. Ana answers: "Good morning".  I ask: "How are you, Ana?".   Ana says: "Fine, I am fine, I am well, very well." With a faint smile, with the thankfulness of someone who is grateful to see the sunrise of one more day, from the window of her hospital bed, she asks, politely: "What about you?" What about me?   I am thinking about my ongoing bad day, my unscheduled lecture, the missed deliveries, my tight shoes, the gas station that does not take Amex, the penury of hot chocolate, the scarcity of parking spaces, the squeeze in the elevator, the big woman with the big derriere,  about all the aggravations and all the annoyances in my life that stinks.  I think about Ana's life that is ending, in pain and misery. Ana says she is "fine". I answer to Ana: "I am fine, Ana, I am fine." My life is beautiful. What is it again I was complaining about? (OdlerRobert Jeanlouie, Sunday, June 19, 2011)

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