Dec 06

Playing God

“Ma’am, I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. Please sit down.”  Dr. Carmen was at the end of his long day. He had had either too much or too little coffee and either way, his head was pounding.
Ms. Vanderholt sat down in the chair in front of his desk. She clutched her handbag in white knuckled terror.
“What happened? Is it all ok?”
 She knew it must not all be ok. The bad news part of the sentence implied that.
“Well. I’m not sure where to begin.”  Dr. Carmen hoped that Ms. Vanderholt could not see the beads of perspiration running down his forehead. God, his head hurt, and he was hungry, too.
“We did everything we could for your son, but there was simply no bringing him back. Sometimes…sometimes doctors do all that we can do and it is still not enough. I’m very sorry.”
He stopped wringing his hands and nudged a box of Kleenex in Ms. Vanderholt’s general direction. There was no need-she was a woman of class and as such had brought her own handkerchief, with which she dabbed at her teary eyes.
“That’s horrible. Just awful. He was so young. Such a good boy.”
 “That’s the thing with these resurrection procedures-they can be quite tricky. He had been gone for a while, there was a good deal damage to his brain. We might have done it, though, but there were far too many maggots in the chest cavity for it to be possible.”
Ms. Vanderholt cringed and cried a little more. She looked like she might vomit. Dr. Carmen cringed, too. He was hoping to avoid vomit in his office, he’d just had a new rug put in.
“That’s disgusting. Horrible,” she said again. “He was a good boy. He didn’t deserve all of this.”
“I know he didn’t,” said Dr. Carmen, glancing at the clock behind Ms. Vanderholt’s head. “They never do.”
“It was all so horrible,” sniffed Ms. Vanderholt for a third time. “One minute he was alive and the next…dead.”
“Well,” Dr Carmen cleared his throat. He had read the medical examiner’s report and knew that the patient in questions had sat rotting in his apartment for weeks after an accidental drug overdose, but he didn’t want to say all that. It would be like rubbing salt in a wound. He assumed what he hoped was a comforting tone.
“I’m sure he was a good young man. But there was nothing that could be done. Like I said, he was far too decomposed. We would have been able to bring him back, except for all the maggots and bot flies. You know how it is.”
Ms. Vanderholt stiffened and sat up straighter in her seat. “I most certainly do not know how it is,” she spat. “I will have you know that I have no experience with such matters.”
“Right,” said Dr. Carmen vaguely, having failed in his mission of comfort. He was thinking of the hot meal his wife would have waiting for him at home. Maybe she had made chicken pot pie. He loved chicken pot pie.
“It is not right!” Now Ms. Vanderholt was indignant. “I’ll sue you and this hospital for all you’re worth. This isn’t at all like the brochures said, ‘Entrust him to us, we’ll have him back alive in no time,’ they said. ‘The recovery can be as little as three weeks if the conditions are right.’ ‘Newest medical technology, leading in the field of resurrection.’ Ha! I’ll have your medical license revoked!”
Dr. Carmen sighed and massaged his temples. “There are no guarantees in the brochures,” he explained. “Those three0week recovery times are for fresh cadavers. You son was not a fresh cadaver.”
Ms. Vanderholt stood, stuffing her hankerchief back into her handbag. “My son,” she said angrily, striding to the door. “Was never a cadaver. He was a good boy who lost his way. You were supposed to bring him back. You were supposed to make it all right again. And now,” she flung the door open. “You’ll be hearing from my lawyers.” The door slammed shut behind her, and Dr. Carmen breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god that was over. Thank god for the hospital’s robust legal team. Thank god for chicken pot pie.