By Jonathan Cheng

“Dreams and Disillusionment in Medicine” Writing Competition
Runner-up

Present

In an almost autonomic fashion, Stefanos stared down the bottom of his glass pensively before draining its contents. He delicately lay down the glass next to empty bottles of Penfold Grange of various years in the 1950s. The whiteness of the sterile room blinded his senses and his pulsating temples fought the assault of the uncontrollably spinning room; the scalpels and forceps distending and meandering directionless off into the distance as his gaze settled on the now dead ECG monitor. 

He read the letter addressed to him from the hospital director once more,

“Dr Tsitsipas, as you know, the hospital relies on the generosity of its donors to continue functioning for the betterment of the patients that we save every day. Therefore, as the hospital director, I have redirected the donated organ of the deceased donor [name redacted] to [name redacted]. His financial contributions in the past has…” and tossed the envelope aside.

“Stefanos?” 

He brushed his long, cascading Goldilocks curls out of his eyes and caught his breath as he looked over to a young woman, who appeared to be almost incandescent.

Her sweet, melodic voice spoke again, “Why are you crying? It’s okay, Stefanos. I know you have done everything you can…”

6 months earlier

Stefanos took a deep breath as his clammy hands clenched the clipboard, reviewing his notes frantically. He cast his gaze into the patient’s room and saw his patient surrounded by her loved ones. 

Knocking twice on the door frame, he rubbed some antiseptic on his hands as he strode in, struggling to maintain his composure. 

“Miss –“ he cleared his throat.

“Miss Athanas, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” he looked around the room solemnly, “would you like me to come back another time?”

Emily grimaced as she propped herself up on the bed, smiling sadly at him, “It’s okay. Could everyone just give us a moment?” 

Stefanos listened as footsteps ceased into the distance to be lost in the labyrinth of the hospital corridors.

“I’m sorry, Emily but we have tried everything we can, and your organs are degenerating to a point of not responding to treatments anymore. Our best chance, of course, would be a donor and I want to let you know that the hospital is doing everything to find you a suitable match.” 

His mind wandered back to their conversations and banter, her angelic smile radiating in every encounter as he sometimes came back for extra ‘ward rounds’. He gasped as that first tear escaped the duct, the rest coming down in a torrent as he hunched over, his chest heaving with unexplainable weight on his shoulders.

Her sweet, melodic voice spoke again, “Why are you crying? It’s okay, Stefanos. I know you have done everything you can…”

Present

Stefanos blinked and once again, he was in complete solitude. Running his fingers over the smashed backing of his phone, his fingers curled in disgust.

He remembered the warm, comforting sensation that filled his chest when he was told that there had finally been a match. He had never questioned the hospital’s façade of non-maleficence. Before he had even had the chance to process his thoughts, he had found a letter by his desk entitled urgent from the hospital director.

His knuckles flashed white as he had dialled the hospital director. When the line connected, his words were filled with venom, “Carl. Don’t make me take your dirty money. You’re all pséftes [liars]. How can you do that to her family?”. Stefanos hung up, his eyes settling on his patient notes. A strange, ethereal disconnect to his body overcame him as he saw himself collapse onto his chair. His face was buried into his desk, forever or so it seemed, grieving for the innocent life that had been lost.

Stefanos picked up another envelope, “Dr Tsitsipas, you are invited to celebrate the life of Emily Athanas…” and took another swig from yet another Penfold Grange, his lips clutching onto the burgundy foil and his fingers tightening into the punt…

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