The Stage is Set
It was high noon under the sun of the blazing equinox. One would think people would rather stay indoors as long as they could. But on the contrary, it was a horrid mess in the waiting room of Sepang Hospital Emergency. The triage doctors were swamped with cries and complains and only seconds to think before tagging patients. The EMTs wheeled in more and more pale and shrivelled civilians from all identifiable groups and nationalities. Distraught visitors were ready to set up camp outside the waiting area both in the lounge and outside the ER. Opportunistic food vendors slipped past the guards and started selling merchandise whilst past the heavily tinted windows the nurses of the 1st floor stared downward looking outside in horror. They had their shift cut out for them and none were too happy about it.
An afternoon shift nurse mumbled under her nose as she walked into the lobby to start her shift. She held her latte with both hands and walked hastily while eyeing the crowd. She hurried for the elevator and got in. 2 other nurses were heading up, looking tired. One of them looking easily 7 months pregnant in her maternity uniform. ‘Ending your shifts?’ She greeted them and they pleasantly nodded. To the corner of the elevator was a woman dressed in business wear just coming up from underground parking. Her hair out, bangs, her jewellery, subtle and she said nothing but watch the numbers rise on the panel. As soon as the doors opened she was the first to get out while the others moved aside paving a way for her. She tried walking hastily but she was distracted as her eyes were too busy absorbing all the chaos around her.
Siti Rahman finally moved to side and scanned the perimeter of the hospital lobby from the 3rd floor corridor balcony before she decised to head down to the ER. ‘Everytime,’ she mumbled under her nose as she navigated her way past a multitude of restless visitors loitering the scene. She scanned her access card and walked in through the back entrance right into the observation bay. She furled up her sleeves and furrowed her brows. An ER Medical Officer in brown scrubs walked right up to her stunned by her untimely presence.
‘Director! I didn’t know they brought the whole calvary down here,’ he said jokingly.
Unamused by his remark she lifted up one of the charts and started flipping pages. ‘Not the calvary, just me,’ she continued, ‘are all these patients just in here for heat stroke?’
The Medical Officer nodded while flicking on a vein of a resting patient’s arm fervently looking for venous access.
‘Datuk?’ Yelled another. Siti turned her immediate attention. ‘Dr Ros!’ She exclaimed as the department head approached her shaking his head in apparent discontent. ‘I told you once before and I’m telling you again, I needed more staff in here yesterday,’
Siti sneered back and almost chuckled a little. ‘I understand you’re swamped but this isn’t why i am here,’
Ros attentively listened and so did the young medical officer after finally setting up the iv cannula.
‘There’s been a situation which calls for an emergency meeting,’
‘you didnt have to come down here to tell me that,’
‘No, i just wanted to,’ she turned to walk out before she stopped. ‘Oh and i need a list of all the house officers working today,’
‘This is about her isn’t it?’ the medical officer interjected. Siti gave a glaring stare before turning back to Ros. They exchanged nods of agreement and she trotted off as her loud brazen heels clattered against the floor tiling. Ros sighed and placed both hands into the wide pockets of his white coat. ‘Carry on Jamal, I’ll be in Yellow if you need me.’
Her next visit would be the paediatric wing where she would need to meet Dr James Wong, the only certified neonatologist in the hospital but a phone call stopped her in her tracks. She starred at the screen for a good 2 seconds before sliding right. She kept walking with the phone to her ear. ‘What is it? Is he not eating? Is he pooping too hard? What is it this time?’ The man on the end of the line was her poor helpless spouse who had just been recently out of a job and was indeed having a tough time managing the chores at home. They had a 2 year old who apparently kept screaming while rolling sideways on the floor for the past hour.
‘He just can’t handle the change, just leave him be,’ she retorted. ‘Yes he will have to get used to it soon enough. Daddy is the new mommy now or at least till Kak Wani comes back from Indonesia that is.’
She had finally reached the reception counter of the NICU. A young lad in blue scrubs sat at the PC typing away as the 2 nurses around him stood up to greet authority. ‘Doctor,’ one of them whispered from the side of her lip, ‘the director is here,’
‘So what if the bitc…’ he stopped to see her smiling at him right back knowing awfully well how he was going to finish that sentence. He froze for a second before his neck nodded ever so slightly. ‘May i know where Dr James is?’ She asked politely choosing not to start an unnecessary conflict. The young house officer got up and immediately felt obligated to find him for her. So overwhelmed with guilt he quickly fled out of sight.
He scurried around until he reached one of the cubicles, each one filled to the doorway with babies in cots. ‘God, how many cows went into labor yesterday?’ He mumbled. ‘Excuse me?’ A shrill voice from behind. He turned abrupt stunned to be caught twice in the same day. ‘Doctor James, boss, sir,’ he fumbled. ‘Speak up boy, we don’t have all day. I have yet complete my morning rounds.’
‘Yes, exactly. What is it you want? We are busy,’ whinned a fretful looking medical officer right next to him. ‘The director is here to see you,’ replied Daniel.
‘No the shoot is not till next week,’ he replied perplexed. He turned his neck to see the end of the narrow hallway, Siti waved back as he smiled. ‘You meant the hospital director,’ he smiled shy of feeling actual embarrassment. The medical officer burst into an obvious chuckle while she gleefully slapped his shoulder.
Dr James walked steadily toward the reception counter, his stance steady and on each stride his scrubs hugged his chizled physique and teased any onlooker who was paying attention.
‘A meeting? Sure i will be available. Do you need Daniel?’ They both looked over at the young house officer standing awkwardly with doe eyed wonder not knowing what to do with his hands so repeatedly shifts them from pockets to sides to crossed then pockets again.
‘Yes, him too. Most definitely,’ she replied with a stern expression. Daniel pretended to look puzzled but deep inside he figured what this was about.
After the rounds Daniel finally managed to find 10 minutes to himself. He walked into the pantry only to realise that all the snacks had been devoured and all that was left was empty plates. To the corner in an airtight translucent tupperware was hot food and not just any hot food but ‘Chicken cordon bleu’. He salivated just looking at the steam moistening the insides of the tupperware. ‘You’re not seriously thinking of taking that are you?’ A gentle voice approached him from behind. Jenny, a fellow house officer walked in. She was a sweet petite little woman with a full dye of golden brown hair, thin framed glasses and thin lips. Her skin was almost albino for a person of Chinese Malaysian descent but it never stopped her from all the sunbathing during her vacation times.
‘No lah, why the hell would i? To add another excuse for them to fuck me over?’ Daniel replied.
Jenny washed her face, and starred at the mirror. Her stomach made awkwardly audible rumbles. ‘I heard about the meeting,’ she exclaimed. She took out a case from a bag and opened a little make up set. She added some blush to her cheek and re-applied her lipstick.
‘Why would you wash your face and reapply all of that?’
‘Because it’s been 8 hours’
‘What? That doesn’t mean…’
‘Shut up,’ she stopped him. As soon as she was satisfied she smacked her lips and kept the case back. Before she left she gave Daniel a long hard stare. ‘All the best, i mean seriously,’
The evening was radiant and the skies shone red and purple. It was almost 4pm and meeting was just about to start.
I’m sorry i am a bit tardy. Traffic,’ said Mr Jamal, the head of Orthopedics. Present at the table were all the head of departments of respective fields all which were deemed relevant to attend, that is from Internal Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Pediatrics, Orthopedics, Emergency Medicine and General Surgery. Datuk Dr Siti was of course there seated next to laptop waiting patiently for one more member to walk in the door.
The latch opened as soon as she thought of it and in came Dr Satya Segaran, Head of Psychiatry. ‘So?’ Siti was ever curious.
While closing the door behind him, he nodded and smiled at everyone gathered there and turned to the director. ‘We talked and i think he is ready,’
‘So will he testify?’
‘I didn’t coerce him to say anything,’
‘Of course you didn’t Doctor and i would never accuse you of such a thing but will he be on our side of the story is what im asking?’
‘He will be heard and we should give him his time.’
Just moments before the meeting was set Daniel was called to see Dr Satya on an urgent matter. He had to handover all his remaining tasks and see to it that he was present for the meeting. He quickly changed into his formal wear while alone in the changing room. Jenny barged right in. ‘Jenny this is the boys…’ but before he could finish she launched at him with a kiss. ‘You can do this,’ she said while straightening his tie at his collar. She dusted his shoulders smiled. ‘Thank you,’ said Daniel as he walked out of the NICU remembering to breathe. He walked passed the bustling lobby while a few people noticed him having a labcoat on immediately harrased him about their loved ones. ‘Im a pharmacist’ he kept repeating to deter them and had one look past the horde before the elevator doors shut after him.
‘So my boy, I’m guessing you know why you are here,’ Dr Satya had a very warm yet hardened paternal voice. His demeanour was calm as he gestured the house officer to sit.
‘I think this is about her,’ Daniel replied while he caught the doctor surreptitiously nod, ‘and why she killed herself.’