Katherine MacGloin | United Kingdom
Note from the Editor: The winner of the 2014 literary contest is Dr Katherine MacGloin. Our thanks to all the participants in the contest. Dr MacGloin was awarded with free registration to Euroanaesthesia 2015 in Berlin.
This is my dawn; my morning offering. Early enough that the town lags behind me in its rising. My journey culminates somewhere in your consciousness. Had I met you yesterday, we would have been passers by. Now I hold you in my hands, young and unworthy, and you hold my attention.
First put on the armor of scrubs, cap, clogs and scientific distance from you. What did you hope for yesterday, passer by? Were you worried about something? Everybody has concerns. I have mine. Time merely reorders them, or in claiming them, provides fresh fodder. “We’ll put a little needle in your hand, give you an injection, and drift you off to sleep”. I can’t touch your hopes, worries, desires, not with any kind of alchemy. I can’t define your consciousness, but I claim it, so as to keep you safe. I’ll keep it safe.
“Drift you off to sleep”. Do you dream, though? My mother once wrote of Morpheus’ snare in the reflection of soothing someone’s pain. What kind of work is this, that I claim to hold you in a dream? Caliban cried to dream again, but the noises of this isle are counts of swabs, and needles, and the metronome of your heart.
You don’t move. You orchestrate my movement with each pressure, each beat, each breath not achieved, each drug I give. You conduct the whole theatre team like some merry dance, in the heat of you open to the coolness of the theatre.
Were you frightened when you met me this morning? I look young; people are often afraid of the anaesthetic. Did I allay your fears? I am human; I promise to try to keep you safe, even if I seem uncaring. That was what I was trying to say, when I shook your hand. What is fear to you now, suspended as you are? You played out your fear on the monitor before we put you to sleep, despite “putting on a brave face”, your heart belied you, your blood pressure betrayed you. Privilege indeed to know your fears, and to try to assuage them. Even more, to pretend that I don’t know you are scared.
How happy to breathe unhindered. I breathe now, for you. I often wonder if this is the best part of my day. I feel that I can keep you safe. I feel that I have not let you down, and when you passed your trust to me, I held it and I didn’t drop it. Even Ondine’s curse is nothing to you now.
Through to theatre, the team awaits. Ready, steady, roll. Ready, steady, slide. Then a flurry of movement from every single body in theatre, except you.
“Hold that hand, please”. “Where’s the arm board”. “Could you put the sats probe on”. “Don’t worry about that for now, we have to turn him first”. “Can we time out”. “In a minute, wait for the scrub side to be ready”. “Do you want a warmer”. “Table up, please”. Before we entered the theatre there was peace and quiet. Now the theatre team spring and cover you with action and noise. Brutish, but necessary. I suppose it’s why you and I came here, after all.
Then the lull, when we have started, and you are suspended, and I am sitting next to you. Arguably archaic, I lean across to you, untape your eyes, the falsifier of your sleep-laden eyelids, and look at your pupils. The eyes are the windows to the soul. Well, whether retina parries a daggered glare, I looked into yours ten minutes ago, and felt a contact of sorts. And again, there came that solemn, silent promise to keep you safe. I look now, and they are central, and vacant. Close the eye.
Closing now. I have exhausted the drug tray and used up every line on the anaesthetic chart. What I want to write is a letter to you, before you wake. “Dear Sir; I do not know what it is in life that moves you. I do not know the names of those who love you, and with whom you interact each day. I don’t know what secrets you have, what lies you’ve told or what promises you’ve broken. I don’t understand how your mind works, and instructs your plan of life. But I have held you for one hour, and watched you sleep. I hope you slept well. Your hopes, fears, desires and goals were always yours and were always there, in the room, while we worked. Because that is what we worked for. That and the hope of you being. It was you, who had left. And now we watch you wake, and regain the basic ability to act out your hopes. I hope you slept well.”