“When called in for an emergency, she always takes a few minutes more than him to arrive in the ICU”
“Yes. She asks a lot of questions on the phone and probably spends more time getting ready before she comes in”
“Sir, we have a deteriorating patient in the ICU and need you to come in”
“Which patient is this”
“Rakesh – the patient with viral myocarditis”
He jumps out of bed in his tshirt and trackpants and puts on his crocs.
“I’m on the way”
He pats down his hair as he skips down the stairs and jumps into the car. As he drives onto the road, he honks at the bikers and pedestrians to get them to move out. He reaches the hospital and parks in a dark corner. He sprints out of the car. The double beep of the car tells him the car is locked.
He swipes in to access the ICU
With the patient stabilised, he leaves the ICU. He strolls to the car and drives back. He gets into the home. There’s a glass of warm water kept out on the dining table that he drinks. The bathroom light is on and a soft light spills onto the bedroom. He washes up and climbs into bed. The little one has just been fed and is sleeping peacefully with a little milk drooling around her lips.The blanket has been neatly placed for him to cover himself. He quickly checks his phone to see the blood test report and texts a reply. He plugs his phone into the charger. A sleepy voice asks him if he is OK. “All good”, he whispers as they doze away.
“Ma’am, we have a deteriorating patient in the ICU and need you to come in”
“Which patient is this”
“Ramesh – the patient with viral myocarditis”
She jumps out of bed. Tshirt and trackpants on a woman draw disapproving looks at the workplace.
“How sick is he” she asks and switches on her speakerphone.
She grabs the churidar set kept out and slips into it.
As her registrar Senthil calmly narrates his vitals and interventions done so far, she vigorously brushes her hair down and slips a scrunchie on to make a neat ponytail. Dishevelled hair is a strict no-no for a woman.
“Should I drop you,” asks a sleepy voice. “I’ll be fine,” she says and playfully ruffles her husbands hair
“I’m on the way”.
She skips down the stairs, gets into the car and locks the doors. As she drives onto the road, she avoids honking at the loitering pedestrians and the rashly driven bike. “Never draw attention to yourself at night”, her mother had said when she was a little girl. An overtaking biker peers into her car with a creepy grin and whizzes away as he tries to imitate Valentino Rossi. She ignores the revving noise.
She chooses a well lit spot to park her car. She gets out, locks the car and pulls the door handle to double check. A group of unsteady men on the roadside stop chattering and look at her.
“How are you ma’am,” a familiar voice says. “Good – have to go to the ICU for an emergency, Anand”. Anand, decked up in his usual security uniform, starts walking with her and casts a firm look at those men. They sheepishly look away and continue chattering. He blows his whistle and taps his lathi on the floor. A rat squeaks away. As she gets on to the well lit paved path, Anand quietly goes back to his beat. She grabs her phone and calls the ICU. Senthil answers and continues to update her. He knows exactly why she called and exactly where she is. “I’m on the path to the building entrance Senthil”. He also knows why she replies with a firm voice. A few patient relatives move away from behind her as they listen to the conversation. “I’m in the building Senthil. On my way up”. She looks at the crowded lift and takes the stairs. The new security guard walks up to the landing and stays there till she reaches the third floor.
She swipes in to access the ICU. “Reached safely”, she texts her husband. The blue double tick comes on within seconds.
With the patient stabilised, she leaves the ICU. “Would you like me to drop you home ma’am”, Senthil asks. “I’ll be fine. I drove down”. She quickly goes to her office, pulls out some chocolate bars from her desk and leaves it at the ICU. The wrappers are in the bin even before she steps out of the door! She takes the empty lift down. “On my way home,” she texts. The tick stays grey and single. Anands tapping stick is reassuring. She peers all around as she repeats the blood gas values over the phone to Senthil and decides to continue the same line of management. She strolls to the car and drives back. The single grey tick doubles and turns blue. She gets into the home. There’s a hot glass of black tea kept out on the dining table that she drinks. They could never forget the first time they met as interns – she chose black tea while he nervously sipped on a bottle of warm water at 2 AM at F&H. The bathroom light is on and a soft light spills onto the bedroom. She washes up, changes and climbs into bed. The little one has just been fed and is sleeping peacefully with a little milk drooling around her lips. The bottle is carelessly placed at the corner of the dressing table. The blanket has been neatly placed for her to cover herself. She quickly checks her phone to see the blood test report and texts a reply. She plugs her phone into the charger. A sleepy voice asks her if she is OK. “All good” she whispers as they snuggle sleepily together. “You’re the best”.
3 years ago they had said, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health”. Maybe they should have added, “when on call and when not on call,” she thought, as strong arms cradled her close to his heartbeat for the rest of the night.