A tablet for death
From the time I entered the ward I could hear the cry. I had to pass through the front of his room and the nurses’ station to reach our meeting room. While passing, I had noticed the resident physician beside his bed.
We started our daily review of cases, and all through it, the cry was getting louder. His voice was rough because of his thyroid problem and sounded like a frog croaking. He was yelling also at the top of his throat, something which I could not decipher at the time.
I asked the doctor what was his problem.
And he said” Ah...nothing.. It is his usual tantrum ”
I knew this old man for some time. He was very old at about ninety years, was unmarried and living with some of his relatives. There was no one to take care of him except a Bengali boy and the old man survived on his allowances from the government. He had a heart problem and thyroid disease and was confined to bed.
I was not convinced of the explanation for his yelling. After the meeting, I went straight to his room. The Bengali was beside the bed and trying to console the old man. He was still crying at the top of his voice.
I asked him” Baba, tell me what is your problem”
He didn’t seem to listen and continued his tantrum, the cry now getting louder when he saw me.
I asked him again.
It was the same slogan, louder. I could make out” tablet for death”
“What is it that you want?”
“Give me tablet for death”
“OK, fine, I don’t have it with me, but tell me your problem”
“Tablet for death”
I was losing my patience. But I made a quick examination and found his abdomen was tender and he had a distended urinary bladder. Retaining urine, and not able to pass it, is probably the worst problem one can have .It is unbearably painful.
I gave instructions to pass a urinary catheter, and about 1.5 liters of urine came out.
I told him I would bring his tablets when I returned.
During the rounds I noticed that his cry was getting less aggressive and after some time, faded and ceased.
While going to the outpatient clinic, I peeped in to see that he was sleeping comfortably.
The next day I saw him during morning rounds. He was lying comfortably and greeted me with a smile.
“I have brought your tablets” I said.
“What?” as if he was surprised.
“The tablets for death you asked yesterday, I brought them”
He grinned from ear to ear, and said
“Not now, I will let you know when”