“We need two blood bags uncrossed immediately! We’re reanimating now!”, the women on the phone told me.
I knew what I had to do and handed the phone off to my colleague with one word: “Emergency.”
She took the phone, confirmed the details of the patient, and prepared two blood bags. Simultaneously, I readied the transport box and the label of the station that the blood was being transported to. When she handed me the blood bags I put them in the box, sealed it, and slapped the label on top of it. The courier arrived soon and ran off to the station.
We looked at the patient details. It was a woman, not even 55 years old. I knew that if she needed uncrossed blood, she was dangerously close to dying. I knew that in these precious minutes a lot of people rushed into the emergency room and tried to save her life. It was a fight with an unknown outcome.
Less than five minutes later, the phone rang again. It was the same voice on the other end: “We need two more blood bags.” My colleague and I prepared them again. The transporter picked them up and rushed to the station. The woman on the phone had said that they’d need four more blood bags later. But the real question was if the patient would survive the next critical minutes.
Five minutes later the phone rang again. “Reanimation complete. We don’t need the blood bags anymore.” Silence hung for just a moment. I understood. I told my colleague and she was visibly upset, as she exclaimed “She was only 55 years old!!” I nodded.
A young woman died today.
I returned to my seat and thought about this event. Even though emergencies and the deaths of patients aren’t unusual, this one prompted me to think about my own mortality. Memento Mori. Remember that you will die. If I’d die at the age of this woman, I would have roughly 25 years left to live.
I remembered the blog post I wrote about regrets a while back. I wrote it after reading On the Shortness of Life by Seneca. At the time of writing it, I was acutely aware of my mortality. Of the fact that I had only a limited time to live. And, on top of that, that I can’t know when I will die. I could die soon. Maybe I get hit by a bus when I cross the street tomorrow. No one knows.
But, somewhere from then till now, this acute awareness of my mortality slowly faded. Soon, I lived like I had all the time in the world. Like it didn’t really matter what I did or didn’t do on any particular day because there would be many more to make up for it. I didn’t live with a sense of urgency. Instead, I slowly wasted my time.
The death of this young woman put my careless behavior into perspective. It snapped me back to reality. Even as I am writing, I know that this sense of urgency will fade from my mind again. Slowly, I’ll get back to wasting my time and not caring too much about it. I’ll be out of touch with my own mortality.
It’s why I write this.
Like my post about regrets, this post will serve as a reminder of how quickly we can pass from this world.
It only took 15 minutes. From when the doctors realized that they needed more blood bags to give to the women dying in front of them.
It’s a sobering reminder to remember our mortality – to stop wasting time and to star living immediately.