The following post is from Dr. Bill McCoy, a Family Medicine doctor.
Wena already owned my heart. Why then this prolonged embrace? “What are you saying, little friend?”
For the past three months, this precious boy had battled leukemia and all the accompanying insults, many of which I myself had inflicted. Bone marrows, needle sticks, and chemotherapy, poisonous medicines, designed and delivered to kill. Hopefully destroying more bad cells than good ones, but collateral damage was always a given.
On good days, and there weren’t many, Wena and I dreamed of fishing and bicycles. Donning masks, armed with spears, we were going to stalk the fish in the nearby river pools. Wena had never owned a bike. He was to inherit mine when I was gone, as if our verbal contract and the pending transfer of ownership would help ensure that he would outlast me.
But hopes and dreams evaporated in the realities of cancer, cruel and unrelenting, and opportunities for bikes and fishing never materialized. Within hours after completion of his first round of chemotherapy, Wena developed severe abdominal pain and vomiting. We managed to weather that initial storm, but others, no less violent, followed. Everything intended for good was accompanied by complications. Wena’s blood counts plummeted, his immune system crashed, infections ravaged his body, and still the cancer persisted.
Neither Wena nor his family ever implied any fault on my part, but I couldn’t find the stop button for the tape playing in my head, “what had I done wrong?”
On the morning of that final day, Wena’s big brother carried him into the hospital. Wena was quiet, supported in his brother’s arms, but his agony was worse than palpable, his face locked in a tight grimace, his responses whispered through a thick veil of suffering. I gave Wena strong medicines to relieve his pain and admitted him to the children’s ward.
In the early afternoon, Wena seemed a little better, almost comfortable. I asked about his pain, he responded “em I go daun liklik” (the pain has gone down). He reached for my hand, pulled me close to his chest and held me there. It was our last shared moment this side of eternity. My friend Wena died two hours later.
Why the embrace? I think Wena knew what his doctor needed, ’twas his last gift to me.