THE ONE WHO DIDN’T BELIEVE IN GHOSTS

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By: Ivy Patdu

 

This story happened to Lei, a physician  friend  of mine  in  a well-known  hospital in Manila. She specialize in ENT  (Ear, Nose and Throat) and  part of her  responsibilities  was to have  24-hour duties attending  to patients in the wards  and the  emergency room. We know  the hospital  as a place where the  sick  gets  healing and treatment.  It is, however, not uncommon that doctors could not always save their patients  and the hospital  inevitably becomes witness to a fairly large number of dying  people. inevitably,  hospital  staff and physicians have their own ghost stories to tell.  Lei,  my doctor friend, refused  to believe their eerie stories.

Lei was  on 24-hour duty one night. The senior physicians ordered  her to  go up  to the operating room complex,  made up  of 30 or so smaller operating rooms.  It occupied  a whole  floor.  It was an hour  before midnight and the nurse on duty had already gone home.  There were ongoing operations in the left wing and so Lei had to go to the opposite  side. She was alone in the deathly silent right wing. Soon,  her imagination took hold of her  and she began recalling the ghost stories about the  operating rooms in  the right  wing.

One in the particular haunted her that very moment.  Supposedly, the nurse on  duty was about to head home when she remembered that she forgot her cell phone. She heard it ring and she hurried towards it. As she reached for her phone, it stopped  ringing. She noted that no number  had registered , but she  dismissed  it as  maybe  an international  call or a blocked number. She was  about to leave, her cell phone  safely kept  in her pocket, when she noticed  a light in one of the operating rooms.  All emergency operations at night were done in the left wing and so she thought that someone  must  have left the light on.  She was  surprised  to see a thin old  lady there, lying on her side,  naked on the operating table, her back to the nurse. Was there going to  be an operation  and she was not informed?

The nurse  walked towards  the patient. There was  no one else around, which was not standard  protocol in emergency operations.  She noticed  that the patient’s  white hair had blood clots and that her skin was brown and dry. “Lola , excuse me,  are you here for an operation?” She tentatively asked.  The old lady did not turn but the nurse  saw her breathing softly . As the nurse reached out to tap the patient,  the old woman suddenly turned. The nurse shrieked,  her shrill  cry  echoing through the empty halls  of the operating room. She  closed  her eyes but the image of the woman   was imprinted  in her mind.

The old lady had a blank face-a brown sphere with the nose barely visible.  She did not have eyes,  nostrils of a mouth. She was just an old  naked body with blood  clots in her hair and an empty face.  The nurse closed her eyes and screamed until she felt  someone shaking  her  shoulders. When she opened  her eyes,  she saw that it was  the roving guard  that was  shaking her. Trembling, she pointed  to the old  woman but  there was no one on the  operating table. As Lei  recalled this urban legend,  her heart pounded louder and faster. She  didn’t  believe  in ghosts , she reminded herself,  but she swore that if an  operating  room light was on,  she wouldn’t  dare check on it.  And so she went on her way, did her job,  checked the equipment, and almost ran back down to the wards.

Only when she got  to the wards did she breathe a sigh of relief she didn’t  know she was  holding.  How could  she scare herself like that?  she berated herself. She  needed  a cigarette, she decided.

Smoking, even though  she knew  it was  a health hazard,  had been her only vice,  believing it to relieve her of the stressful  hospital life.  It wasn’t  allowed in the hospital  but she  knew of several  hidden spots where she could  light up.  She reported  to her seniors regarding the equipment and told them she was  taking a break. She asked  an intern to  accompany her-not that she was afraid,   but because she wanted some company.  The two of them went to her secret  spot by  the administration offices, which  was at the end of a short hallway hear the wards. At night,  no one passes there. The  lights  were off,  however,  and they had  to make do with whatever illumination that came  from the wards.

They took  out their  cigarettes and Lei took  out her lighter. Only after several  tries did it light, and the  ensuing flame cast weird  shadows around them.  When they  had smoked a couple of puffs, Lei told  the intern about the story of the operating room and they both had a good laugh.

It was  then that they noticed a man walking  towards them.  They weren’t sure if he had come from one  of the offices, and they were afraid that he might be part of  the hospitals administrations. Lei and the intern quickly put out their cigarettes. When  he came near, they saw that he was middle-aged and was wearing ordinary clothes. He  was smiling.

Lei then thought that he might be a snatcher,  as there had been  reports of one running around. She refused to think that it might be a ghost. She felt her throat go dry and her heart  beat in  a different rhythm.

But the man seemed normal, especially when he asked  if he could borrow a  lighter to light his cigarette. His voice seemed a bit hoarse, but it was friendly.

Lei  lent him his  lighter and he lighted up.

“Thank you,” the old man  said softly as he gave  back her lighter.   Since Lei and the intern had already put out their cigarettes, they decided to go back to the  wards.  They saw the man continuing to smoke as they walked away. “He’s scary, ” Lei whispered to the intern. The intern joked that Lei had gone  pale when  the man approached  them.

They were inside the wards when Lei’s cell phone began ringing. She took  the call,  which turned  out to be the junior physician in the emergency room. A patient complaining of breathing difficulties had just been wheeled in. The  junior physician had  reviewed the  charts and the patients was assessed  to need an  emergency tracheostomy,  This  procedure was an operation where they  had to  quickly  cut a hole  in the patient’s  neck and insert  a tube to secure the airway to make  the patient able to breathe. This was  usually done when the patient has a throat or airway obstruction.

Lei  got her  operating  instruments and ran to the  emergency room,  with the  intern trailing behind her.  When she reached the ER five minutes later,  Lei was  distraught to learn that the patient had already expired, his  relatives grieving around him.  She took the junior physician aside and gave  him orders regarding the death certificate,  which he would fill up.  She learned  that the patient had been diagnosed a few months ago with cancer of the throat but he never followed up on  treatment.  She was  about to  console the relatives when another commotion occurred.

The intern that had been trailing behind Lei suddenly fainted and nurses were rushing to her side.  The intern was revived within seconds and Lei was  already beside her.  “Are you okay?” she asked the intern.

The intern weakly answered her, almost in a whisper, “Look at the patient, doctor.”

Lei saw that the patient that had just  died was the same  middle-aged man who  had borrowed a lighter from her a few minutes ago.  Except now he  had the ashen face of death. After that night, Lei  quit smoking. For some reason, her lighter was also missing and  she concluded that she must have misplaced it or  it fell when she   was running  towards the emergency room.  In any case,  she didn’t  need it  anymore.  After all, smoking is really bad for you.

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