Leon Poh ‘19,
‘What is your greatest fear?’
Was an ice-breaker question I never quite had an answer to. For convenience
sake, I would always answer with
Pretty ironic, considering the fact that I ended up working in a hospital for a
year. The fast-paced medical environment places you in uncomfortable
situations where you find solace in indifference. When death came knocking
everyday, staring me dead in the eye, I was forced to extract any emotions to fufil
what I was there to do in the first place. To save lives.
The first body rushed in on the medical cot while the head nurse announced
Patient was unstable and had multiple fractures from a road traffic accident. His
hands sawed off at the wrist, leaving a pulsing red blood stream by the operating
table. With shallow breathing and a low heart rate of just 30 beats per minute,
the nurses surrounding him clipped his clothes off and begin injecting
Intravenous fluid into bot arms. In that moment, I had to subdue any emotions.
Every incident ran like clockwork; the doctor would give orders while we
assisted with secondary protocol of reducing blood loss.
Amongst the organised chaos within the operating theatre, there would be the
occasional hysterical cries from behind the door. We had to block them out to
focus on he task at hand. Outside the operating theatre, you had to prevent
yourself from acting you hear the hysterical cries from the victim;s relatives as
we accompany the doctor to deliver the news. As you deliver the news that their
own flesh and blood had not survived, you have to block your emotions from that
He was someone’s father, someone’s son, someone’s husband
But to us, he was simply another body.
It had been about a month working in the hospital and the initial shock of the
environment soon faded. The blood splatters on my operating gown were like
ketchup stains on a bib at a restaurant. The crying of the family members from
outside the operating theatre became white noise.
When a patient got a diagnosis for a terminal illness, we register the impending
emotions and empathy towards them but only to a certain extent. We conceal
Contemplating a patient’s imminent death kept me up at night, wondering how
their families’ lives would be affected.
‘Am I going to die?’
A question that pops up all too often after a diagnosis.
‘Of course not’
Countless times. The inner voice would tell me it’s to give them comfort and
hope. We conceal our true emotions for a clear conscience.
Having gained the ability to separate emotions from my job worked in my favour
since I was able to focus on what I was meant to do. I believed that no matter
what the outcome, I served to the best of my abilities.
The roles reversed when I got a call from mom that grandpa was in critical
condition at the hospital. I was finally amongst the ‘white noise’. This time, I
could not ignore it. The wait was about 2 hours, although anxiety made it feel like
an entire day. Then the doctor emerged with the nurses. I recognised the
bereaved expression on his face, the one I had to wear to deliver the news and
knew exactly what was about to come. When everyone broke out in tears, I stood
there, silent. I looked down, embarrassed at my own indifference. Mom turned to
me and gave me a hug. I returned it and gave gentle rubs on her back.
The only time I cried over my grandfather’s death was that very night. When the
sudden realization hit me that I could not feel, even for someone who had cared
for me his entire life. He was just another body.
I was just another body.
Since that day I’ve come to realise that my greatest fear was not death itself,
but numbness towards it.
In this occupation, you feel so much that you begin to feel nothing. I
I’ve always though my greatest fear is of death, but my greatest fear is numbness
An infant was being rushed through the hospital doors for us. Mother crying
behind. At that moment, I could feel nothing. They
I wonder, how would I react to my own mother’s death
Maybe it was the countless death