>Neurosurgery Confessionals


I wrote this my freshman year of college for my writing class:
 My dad wasn’t around much when I was younger because he was in his residency until he was 36. I can’t blame him  though, since he has to deal with life and death on an unparalleled basis.  This I came to understand during one of those lazy Sundays that involved running errands and making rounds.  This particular Sunday, after making rounds earlier in the day, his beeper went off again.  Usually, if we were out and about and he was called in, I would have a book ready. I often sat alone in the car, reading for hours at a time until he finished doing whatever it was he did.  I expected the same out of this call, but my father emerged from the hospital just as I was settling in for a nice hour or two of reading. He knocked on the window with a key and beckoned me to follow.

In the hospital was a 15 year old boy who was very recently involved in a gang shooting.  When we walked through all of the double doors and were deep into the heart of the hospital, we finally arrived at the right room.  The boy was lying on a bed leaning at 45 degrees, looking very close to death. He was white, his head was shaved and he was stark naked, which added a touch of realism to the situation; that body looked similar to mine, and indeed, we were the same age.  The bullet had entered the boy’s head in between the left temple and ear.  Rather than the bloody mess I was expecting, there was a tiny v-shaped cut.  The bullet was lodged in the left ventricle of the brain, causing massive hemorrhaging.  There was no exit wound.  This kid, who a few hours before had been running around, doing teenager stuff, had been shot and was most probably going to die.  My father was busy conversing with nurses about how the kid had become brain dead.  As his heart was still beating, he was alive and in a vegetative state that would not continue for many more hours.

My father summoned me onwards to a room where he said the boy’s mother was.  I knew what was coming and began to protest that I wanted no part of it.  But I knew that after having come this far, I could not turn back.  It was a ride of painful emotions that I had to weather, even if only to understand how precious my own life is.  We entered the room and sat down in a style akin to the way it’s done in movies.  The mother and the boy’s uncle were there; they knew also.  When my father began to slowly explain the situation, the mother began to sob.  Not uncontrollably, but with deep, steady, sadness.  The man to her left was stone-faced, arm around her, trying to stabilize her bobbing shoulders.  The whole time my dad was solemn, his countenance grim  — he knew exactly how to handle the situation.   

Dealing with such heavy emotions is never easy, but the composure my father showed was amazing.  He knew the scope of the family’s tragedy. To reveal anything more than a compassionate frown would be disaster, the woman would completely lose it and who knows what might happen after that.  I felt nearly sick from feeling so close to tragedy, yet so very removed; I didn’t even know these people.  And so I just sat, silent, watching, wondering what it would be like to hear that my own son was going to die from a bullet wound to the head. 

My father’s poise allowed me to garner a further appreciation for what he does.   While for me, this experience helped me to see the thinness of life’s thread and when snipped just how far the spool can unravel, for my dad it was just another day at work.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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