April 25, 2013

prometheus part II

The following is not FACTUALLY accurate. Details have been changed, things deleted, stuff made up, all to protect identity. But it is 100% absolutely true

Cursing the lack of windows to myself, I stole a quick glance at my phone to discern the time. A lack of any sort of circadian rhythm made anticipation of sleep, knowledge of time, or whether it was time to eat impossible. 3:30 am. Gee, I'm sure the patient will love getting a visit at this time of the night. Another service had beat me to ruining any chance of the patient or myself getting any sleep. Radiology had taken her to get an ultrasound.

I plopped down into a chair and looked over her chart in more detail. She complained of abdominal pain. ER departments love their CT scanners so she had already received the massive dose of radiation to confirm what a simple abdominal exam and labs already told us. She had appendicitis. Now the ultrasound came back and showed a goodly sized gallstone causing more trouble by backing up her pancreas. Poor lady. Got a two-for-one deal. Appendicitis AND gallstone pancreatitis. And I learned most everything I ever needed to know about an acute abdominal exam in one fell swoop. Bad for her but good for me. Such is the way of things in my training.

That was only the half of it. I would find out a day later that patients don't get a two for one without some sacrificial payment. I was regaling the valuable learning experience to another student when the resident stopped me. "Didn't you hear? She had metastatic colon cancer." An ice cold feeling dropped through my body. She had metastatic colon cancer and her belly was rebelling against the tumors. Poor lady indeed. she probably had 6 months to live. And I was reminded again of Prometheus. But this time in a poem by the German author Goethe. In it, Prometheus angrily chides the heavenly Zeus over the treatment of humanity.

COVER thy spacious heavens, Zeus,
With clouds of mist,
And, like the boy who lops
The thistles' heads,
Disport with oaks and mountain-peaks,
Yet thou must leave
My earth still standing;
My cottage too, which was not raised by thee;
Leave me my hearth,
Whose kindly glow
By thee is envied.

I know nought poorer
Under the sun, than ye gods!
Ye nourish painfully,
With sacrifices
And votive prayers,
Your majesty:
Ye would e'en starve,
If children and beggars
Were not trusting fools.

While yet a child
And ignorant of life,
I turned my wandering gaze
Up tow'rd the sun, as if with him
There were an ear to hear my wailings,
A heart, like mine,
To feel compassion for distress.

Who help'd me
Against the Titans' insolence?
Who rescued me from certain death,
From slavery?
Didst thou not do all this thyself,
My sacred glowing heart?
And glowedst, young and good,
Deceived with grateful thanks
To yonder slumbering one?

I honour thee! and why?
Hast thou e'er lighten'd the sorrows
Of the heavy laden?
Hast thou e'er dried up the tears
Of the anguish-stricken?
Was I not fashion'd to be a man
By omnipotent Time,
And by eternal Fate,
Masters of me and thee?

Didst thou e'er fancy
That life I should learn to hate,
And fly to deserts,
Because not all
My blossoming dreams grew ripe?

Here sit I, forming mortals
After my image;
A race resembling me,
To suffer, to weep,
To enjoy, to be glad,
And thee to scorn,
As I!

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