For once it’s not about MRCOG exam, it’s about some unanswered questions of life – questions that are not answered by any amount of knowledge I have gained from books, literature or life experiences. Just wondering if any reader could help me find an answer so I can mark a closure to this story.
Note: This is a true story without any fabrication or dramatisation. All characters are real.
It was back in those days when I started my internship in General Surgery, my first rotation after graduating as a doctor. We all know how it feels in the months of our internship/house-job. The enthusiasm and thrill of a new life as a responsible doctor who makes critical and complex decisions, is unexplainable in words. Surgery was my passion and I was thoroughly enjoying the tough duties, developing surgical skills and loving every bit of my work.
I was allotted five beds in the general ward, beds 1-5. One of those days, a new admission came on bed 1. He had a lovely, extra-ordinary attractive face with blonde hair, the typical fair pink complexion people have from the North of Pakistan with huge blue-green eyes. His name was Umar Daraaz, which in Urdu language means ‘a person with a very long life.’
Umar was a lovely 10 years young boy who was admitted with an ulcer on his neck, which was not only infected, but it was manifested with worms too. Twice a day, I used to clean and dress that foul smelling ulcer. Umar used to be unusually quiet while I cleaned and dressed his wound. It didn’t take me long to realise that he used to feel very embarrassed because of the smell.
With antibiotics and dressings, the wound started to get better. In a few days, Umar and I started having good chats while I kept doing his dressings myself instead of leaving it on a nurse. He told me that he came from a very poor family, and was the eldest amongst four siblings. He started school, but could not continue as his school fee and expenses were beyond his father’s means. He reeled off that he loves to read and write. So, in my free time, I started to teach Umar reading and writing both, Urdu and English. He was a very swift learner. Within days, he was able to read the names of the nurses and doctors, from the board placed on the wall.
When the wound was clean enough and was free of worms and infection, we took a biopsy from the ulcer. It turned out to be Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. What a heart-breaking news it was for all the staff members! Umar was then transferred to a Cancer Centre. Upon leaving, he was tearful, and took a promise from me to call him very often. I kept my promise and did call him several times. I was told that the cancer had spread through out the body and he was administered chemotherapy. After six months, he was discharged from the cancer centre. Before going back home to the North, he came to see me.
That was the last time I saw Umar. He was laying on the back seat of the taxi and looked like a skeleton. His beautiful blonde hair were gone due to chemotherapy and the pink complexion had turned pale. His father told me the same as doctors that he was incurable, so the family decided to take him home. Umar was so weak, he could hardly get up to give me a hug. I can never forget the way he looked at me with his lifeless eyes as if he was asking for help. He told me that once he is back home, he plans to start school again and wants be a doctor like me one day.
6 months later:
It was the new year’s night and all my friends were out celebrating, while I was doing on-call shift. The hospital security guard came and told me that someone wanted to meet me, an odd hour for a visitor. When I came out, I found Umar’s father who had come from hundreds of miles. The moment he looked at me, he broke into tears and handed me over a heavy envelope saying, ‘Umar has left this for you’.
Looking at him, I knew instinctively that Umar was no more. I sat with him for some moments, but had no courage to ask him anything. After a while, he said, ‘There was not a single day when Umar did not talk about you. He wanted to become a doctor like you. He used to write letters to you and in this envelope are those letters. He told me to deliver these to you in person and not to post them.’
Later, I sat in my on-call room, reading the letters written to me by Umar Daraaz. The letters were written in broken handwriting and were full of spelling mistakes, but comprehensive enough to deliver me all his thoughts.
He had realised he was going to die soon, he had written about his dreams of life and how it felt when he knew those dreams would remain dreams forever. He wrote about the pain he used to feel in his body and the aches of his heart. He wrote that he could see his father looked as if he had grown ten years older in only a few months and the agony in his mother’s eyes.
But his last letter contained just one sentence…..
‘Why was I named Umar Daraaz?’