The Fifth Horseman

black and white dead die diving

You have gushed everything

‘Shit! It’s late,’ screamed Daniel out of a sudden, breaking the waves of deep slumber as his body jolted out of bed, naked in his underwear. He walked to his study table, found his phone to check the time. He rubbed his eyes for clarity and saw ‘0730H’, and that only meant he was dead meat. He rushed to the toilet, hit the lights on and gargled some mouthwash, sniffed his armpits, moved his face away repulsively and then haphazardly patted talc powder on himself. Just before he rushed out, his bladder gave him stinging signals to relieve it, to which he reluctantly obeyed and delayed himself further.

Jenny watched her boyfriend apply an insufferable amount of deodorant, clumsily put his clothes on, top that off with eau de parfum, walk out of the room with his hospital access pass, only to come back in remembering his tie. She laid still under the sheets, exhausted from her shift last night. Her eyes tracked his movements, watching everything that was going on but all she could do was smile in amusement. She commanded herself to get up and her legs obediently got down from the edge of bed. She straightened her back, flung her arms wide open and stretched while the sheets fell unwrapping her to greet the morning sun, nude and proud. She had her one morning yawn and then immediately approached the closet. ‘This would go better with the shirt,’ she said still half asleep holding a blue skinny necktie, and handed it over to him. Daniel threw the one he was holding onto the floor, although he had already prepared the knot and laid it out days before. He fashioned the tie just handed to him around his neck and started the process, trying to catch his breath.

Jenny swooped her hands in and took over. ‘I thought you did your prayers at Dawn,’

‘I did,’ he replied. She gave the last pull and it was a perfect Half-Windsor. ‘Then you went back to sleep,’ she chuckled and patted his back. ‘Go be a hero,’ she added. Daniel winced as he caught some of her unapologetic breath. ‘Oh and you’re so clean,’ she snarkily retorted.

As Daniel fumbled his way to leave for another day in the hospital, Jenny was supposed to enjoy her one day off a week and today was just that day. The first thing she did as most people do was immediately check her phone for updates. ’31 pending notifications’ littered her screen. Most of it was just trash but then there was that breakfast that she was supposed to have, the ‘just us girls’ kind.

And then there was all the news about the recent events, the string of condolences, prayers and regrets, and all the long eulogies from self proclaimed friends on the departed’s Facebook profile. That and all the personals texts as well, some even not so sincere,

‘Hey so I know this isn’t the right time, but her room is empty now right? I wonder if I can move in, I need to give a quick notice to my landlord cause it’s quite expensive out here.’ Jenny simply replied, ‘you’re right, this isn’t the right time.’

Jenny, unlike many other house officers never really identified herself to a single clique. She had varied group of friends, most of course from the same profession as her but some were also from her old music school, where she worked teaching hip hop to adolescent girls part time before she got the job she was currently in. Her friends too were interim job holders who now do different if not better things. Jenny being the only one who had ‘Dr’ prefixed to her name still found herself riddled with insecurity around them. According to her, they had better lives then she did. She loved to hear about their stories, their latest projects, travels, and people they have met. Today she was meeting with just 2, one whom everyone just refers to as Ain, the law student turned public defender, and another Rekha, a travel blogger who so happens to be in town and would just die if they did not all meet at least once. Another friend of hers from work, a young house officer by the name of Syikin, wanted to tag along because she was ‘Off’ too and had nothing else better to do today. Plus it was such an inviting weather.

They met at descent looking cafe, with glass windows and a veranda overlooking a serene reservoir in the heart of mid-town Cyberjaya, just 20 minutes away from the hospital by car. Lakeside Cafe, it was called; where all the Baristas were men, brewed exquisite high priced coffee, and even looked equally as good. ‘Two for the price of one. What are you doing later?’ Rekha casually flirted with one of waiters who served her a hot latte with a slice of macadamia nut cheesecake. The girls chuckled among themselves as the young boy walked away hiding his flushed face.

‘Never change girl,’ said Jenny, all toasting their glasses and cups before sipping them. ‘So, life?’ started Ain, instigating a tradition that these girls had whenever they hung out together.

‘Life, is waking up everyday at 6, getting to work by 7, finishing everything by 8 and then getting yelled for the remainder of your time until the next 7,’ started Syikin, trying to impress her possible new friends.

‘Life, is the futility of one’s efforts leading to the inevitable, where the one with the most resources walk and the looser in turn rots in jail,’ Ain flexed her courtroom muscles.

‘Life, is a spiritually charged journey, one that intrigues you, titillates you, and leads you off into an almost sexually charged race. A finish line so clear, that you exhaust all your energy. And when you finally tear that ribbon, you’re so wet you have gushed everything,’ Rekha slowly realized that was gaining looks and stares from other tables. ‘Wow this country never changes.’ she said in response.

‘Life, is…’ lost for words, Jenny thought hard to describe her week in just one clever quote. The truth was it was just an appalling mess that she couldn’t really come up with anything new to say. ‘just an appalling mess,’ she ended eventually.

The girls talked for a bit and Syikin initially being the odd one out found it surprisingly easy to socialize with this crew, loving her new found friends. Jenny however wasn’t quite enjoying herself though and Ain being the perceptive lawyer she is, saw right through her. ‘I know when somebody is lying, and you child are not in this realm at the moment,’ she joked while gently tapping Jenny on the head.

Syikin immediately took notice but despite understanding what was wrong, she didn’t want to be the one to tell Jenny’s friends. It had to be Jenny and Jenny alone. ‘No, what are you talking about?’ the young doctor defended herself, putting on a smile, and tried to shift the trajectory by talking about her friends’ necklace and when she was finally going to marry that dimwit of a fiance of hers. There was a moment of awkwardness but Rekha and Ain quickly dismissed it and continued to enjoy your time. That is of course until a loud metal clang was heard from a few tables away.

**

Sirens blared, and the EMTs had finally reached the cafe. Mr Badrul had woken up that morning feeling good about his upcoming shift. He performed his morning prayers, had a descent breakfast and headed quickly to work. Not 5 minutes in, he was rushed for an ambulance call. As the driver, it was his duty to ensure his vehicle was always prepped and ready. The dispatch was to a ‘Lakeside Cafe’. Someone in his late teens had passed out, lying on the floor gasping for air and loosing consciousness by the minute. Mr Badrul clapped his hands twice, ‘OK’ he called out to the two paramedics just as soon as he checked the tank and ensured the vehicle was ready, complete with a stretcher, filled O2 tanks, masks and of course a cardiac monitor with functioning batteries.

On site, Jenny and Syikin were standing before the young man now lying on the floor breathing heavily, with eyes constantly rolling up. It was the waiter from earlier, who suddenly collapsed to the ground, dropping his tray along with everything on it. He squirmed and squirmed and held tight his chest.

‘Oh God! Rekha shrieked. Jenny stared cold at her newly adopted patient. Syikin quickly called for an ambulance, and started yelling out details over the phone. There was so much noise and clutter while people took out their phones hoping to catch some action. It should have put a lot more pressure on the two doctors on site but all Jenny could think of now was, ‘What am I doing here? Why is this happening? Why now? Why are you testing me?’ She found herself ruminating in her own thoughts as though the universe had decided to bestow her an emergency uniquely for her at this moment. ‘Jenny!’ called out Ain. ‘Is there anything we can do?’ she cried out.

As if by reflex Jenny knelt to inspect the boy. She saw the way his hands were clenched on his chest.

‘Hey!’ she shouted. ‘What’s your name?’

‘Riz’ the boy answered between breaths. Jenny looked up to his coworkers for confirmation. They unanimously nodded. ‘Do you have any medical history I should know about?’

‘I have… I have…’ gasping unable to complete his sentence. ‘Allergies? Asthma?’ she cried out. He shook his head and pointed to his chest. ‘A heart condition?’ He nodded.

She felt for his pulse and noted his heart was racing at a precarious pace. An older person presumably the manager, brought a knapsack and opened it before her. ‘This is all his stuff,’ he said.

‘Any medication in there?’ asked Syikin. Jenny kept zoning out, asking herself ‘Why? Why? What would you do now?’ and at the same time there was almost like another part of her working independently piecing together clues on what the diagnosis might be. Syikin looked through the bag and found emptied medication strips. ‘Warfarin?’ she cried out.

Jenny snapped back as soon as she heard that. She had an inclination, ‘so he’s on long-term warfarin, and by the looks of that old strip he has yet replenished it,’ the patient nodded and tried to speak before Syikin sarcastically interjected, ‘and you were just thinking of getting them sometime this week, yea?’

Before she could figure a preliminary diagnosis, Jenny instinctively reached for his neck and started positioning her fingers to grip both sides and gently started rotating in clockwise motion while she told the others to help him stay calm. ‘Do you know what you have Riz? SVT? AF?’ However the boy wasn’t looking very responsive at this moment.

The ambulance had arrived and the EMTs barged out to attend the patient. They took his vitals and set an O2 prong. ‘Dr Jenny?’ one of them called out. She looked up to smile at a familiar face. ‘Even on my off day right?’ she joked, ‘can you put on the leads?’ she instructed. ‘Yes, we have that,’ Mr Badrul cried out.

The paramedics worked fast to apply the ECG leads and Syikin turned the machine on. ‘What’s that mean?’ cried out Rekha. From afar Jenny noted the Heart Rate was at 200, and the recording was typical of something called a Fast Atrial Fibrillation or Fast AF. Her inclination was right but she was doing nothing at the moment that was of actual help.

‘The massage is not working,’ cried out Syikin and Jenny concurred.

Ain looked over to Rekha’s shoulder, ‘Am I following this correctly or is she really giving him a neck massage?’ Rekha stared back at her, ‘I believe she is.’

Syikin paced to and fro flipping through her phone. ‘Rate control?Shock?’ she cried out trying to bounce ideas off her colleague. Jenny couldn’t focus as she was constantly being pulled back and this time she was gone for a quite a bit. She found herself floating in an endless inescapable limbo of her own.

‘Why do you want to shock him? Is he dying you idiot?’ she recalled her Medical Officers insulting her sometime back. ‘Congratulations, you have killed the patient,’ shouted a fleeting vision of her consultant. And from afar, her own voice closely approached her, getting louder and louder. ‘Why do you bother? You don’t care. You let her die, and it was all the more convenient. Of course nobody should hog the spotlight except Jennifer, the honor student, the apple of daddy’s eye, the star of the show, and now that she is gone you can finally have the stage again, all to yourself. But who’s watching this time? A soon to be corpse, just another to add to the list of victims. Pretty dark for you Jennifer, pretty dark.’

She saw a vision of the boy’s spirit detaching from his body and being pulled up.

‘SHOCK HIM!’ Jenny screamed as the young boy withered out of consciousness. ‘Riz, Riz, she called out. His pulse was gone. ‘200?’ asked the paramedics. ‘200’ she concurred.

‘Guess the neck massage didn’t work,’ said Rekha arms crossed in the background. They realized they could do nothing for their friend but stand and watch, and maybe just wait for instructions. Jenny wasn’t aware of the sheer admiration her peers had for her. ‘Everybody clear!’ she cried and the paddles shocked him once. The sheer jolt shook the crowd as they gasped in unison. The manager tried to clear them from the scene but then realized it was a fool’s errant.

No pulse.

‘I’m initiating CPR,’ Jenny exclaimed. She climbed on top of him, pressed both palms right below his sternum with her elbows locked, and started compressing synchronously. ‘Ready!’ the paramedic alerted as soon as the defibrillator was charged. Jenny got off to the side.

‘CLEAR!’ and another jolt.

‘Pulses are back, regular’ and they all looked at screen unison, even the bystanders. ‘Sinus rhythm,’ Syikin called out, ‘but just for now. It might come back. He needs monitoring,.’ Jenny exhaled and fell backwards to the ground, breathing deeply in relief as she heard the crowd applaud in the distance. She smiled just a little before her friends came to her, towering over her, lifting her back up. They gave her a bottle of water to drink from, which she gulped down vigorously. She tried to catch hold of her breath while she consolidated her thoughts. She glanced at Rekha, looking perplexed. ‘Now that… that is what you should have said about ‘Life’,’ Rekha summed up.

Syikin had decided to accompany the patient back to the hospital and see things through. She started him on iv arythmics. Lying on the stretcher, the young boy mouthed ‘Thank you’ to Jenny before the ambulance doors closed after him. While Jenny offered, Syikin insisted she spend more time with her friends. They bid farewell and hoped to see each other again soon. The group of friends remaining had a free meal on the house as a sign of gratitude.

‘Well my plane leaves in 2 hours, so I best get going,’ cried out Rekha, disappointed but excited all the same. She was heading out to Vietnam for her travel blog, fully sponsored of course, and was about to meet more long lost friends over there. ‘I can’t believe you call that work,’ said Jenny. ‘I can’t believe you call yours’,’ Rekha retorted. ‘Well mine still is,’ Ain joked. The three friends parted ways and Jenny drove back by noon. She still couln’t bare step foot in her old apartment, and just skipped a floor up the elevator.

Back in Daniels’ she had taken a long hot shower. She sat quietly in her bathrobes on the couch facing the apartment balcony overlooking the city under the evening sun. She had the same view upstairs only that from here you could see pass the windows of opposite apartments and everything in them. ‘So that’s why,’ she smirked. She checked her phone to find in her feeds that her video had gotten some traction online.

‘Wow, local hero, Dr Jenny in the house,’ someone posted. She opened the link. It was a good video, crisp in quality and you could see the whole incident play out like a scene from a movie. Jenny was transfixed on the expressions that she was constantly making, which was a faded and distant look, and so unlike her. It didn’t feel like she was watching herself, but someone inadequate, inferior and guilty. ‘Why?’ again the voices played. Her nose started to redden, her cheeks puffed. She started to sniffle and then her eyes just couldn’t hold it in anymore. ‘I’m sorry,’ she cried out, ‘I’m so sorry.’

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About BreakingBone

Health professional, writer, media enthusiast, food & fitness lover, modest traveller, loves life & making figurative lemonade outta everything