The Ritual (My patient has died Part 10)

As a cherry 🍒 on top, we finish this series with a gripping spoken word by Eugene Muthumbi, my classmate.

The ritual he speaks of is one I vividly remember. In fact, this never ending ritual is what inspired this entire “My Patient has died” series. Paediatric deaths do something to you. 😭 Enjoy the video and share widely!

(Ps-if you’re using your phone, it’s best to play the video in full screen)

The Ritual

Spoken Word by Eugene Muthumbi

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

White coats scurry around the room.
Illegible notes are scribbled into big blue cards.
“Sister, do you think we should up the phenobarb for this one?”
The nurse just shrugs.
The 6 year old’s intractable seizures
Are not enough to shake her.

Meanwhile,
Across the room,
A little girl tries to drink in the air
Being fed to her through a mask.

Breathe in. Breath out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

White coats scurry around the room.
Illegible notes are scribbled into big blue cards.
Doctor is now debating between phenobarb and midazolam,
But the nurse tunes out his droning.
Instead she wonders if her husband will come home today;
Maybe the bottle will be what he holds when he sleeps tonight.
So she instead chooses to toy
With the mental image
Of a certain Dr M:
Tall, bearded, well built, intelligent.
She feels a familiar heat down under;
Australia and her, same wozzap.

Meanwhile,
Across the room,
A little girl tries to drink in the air
Being fed to her through a mask.

Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

White coats scurry around the room.
Illegible notes are scribbled into big blue cards.
Student wants to ask the doctor
Why that patient is still on ceftriaxone
Despite a clear CSF screen.
But Doctor is on phone.
So the student sighs heavily;
Lets his mind wander,
Wondering what mom will make for dinner today.

Meanwhile across the room,
A little girl tries to drink in the air
Being fed to her through a mask.

But this time?
This time she fails.

She tries again.

She fails again.

Her mother chains her own breath to her lungs
In solidarity with her daughter’s apnea.

Waiting.

Waiting.

Twenty seconds pass
And Mother can no longer hold vigil.
She gasps for the air
That her daughter’s lungs have lost taste for.
Her gutteral wail moves them all into action.
The nurse carries the girl across the room
Swaddled in KNH branded sheets.
The curtains are drawn.
Mother is still wailing.

Resuscitation start time: 4:19pm.

The ritual begins…

Airway… Clear.
Breathing… No chest movement.
Student gives 5 rescue breaths.
Pulse… Radial pulse not palpable.
Doctor gives 15 chest compressions.
Then 2 breaths.
Then 15 chest compressions,
Then 2,
Then 15,
2..

The nurse comes back with a syringe;
Pumps the girl’s veins with adrenaline.
The ritual continues.
15, 2, 15.
Mother wails.
15, 2, 15.
Sweat drips.
15, 2.
Wailing
15, 2.
Clock ticks,
15.
Wailing,
15 –

Stop!

There is no benefit in resuscitating after the 10 minute mark.
At least that’s what the nurse says.

The little girl lay there,
Her lungs now a haunted house,
Filled only with ghost stories.

Time of death: 4:31pm

Student goes home.
He tries to write.
But there is no poetry in death.
There is no poetry when you know
You will reconvene in a few hours
To repeat the ritual.
There is no poetry when you know
You will repeat the ritual
Until you become the ritual.
And in the end,
We all become the ritual.

But until then…

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Connect with Eugene @thumbsmusic on Instagram.


My patient has died. The end.

A 10 part series! Who’d have known we had all these stories to share? Thank you so much to the guest writers who made this possible.

Thank you dear reader, for your continued support. Make sure you subscribe via email to the blog (scroll to the bottom of this page and you’ll find the subscription box).

Also, what suggestions do you have on future issues/topics I should write on? Share them in the comments.

Soli deo Gloria.