Gen Y Speaks: My unforgettable encounters with unquiet souls in hospital
I have been on call and worked overnight in various Singapore hospitals many times and within different departments, but have not yet met a ghost. If ghosts do roam this earth, I think that they may pale in comparison to the terrifying realities of life.
Novels and movies have long portrayed hospitals as eerie places of unexplained screams and unquiet ghosts, where in the dead of the night, the protagonist sees a lady in white roaming at the corridors, only to realise that she has no face and no shadow.
I have been on call and worked overnight in various Singapore hospitals many times and within different departments, but have not yet met a ghost.
If ghosts do roam this earth, I think that they may pale in comparison to the terrifying realities of life.
Two incidents remain etched in my mind.
The first was when I was on night call at a surgical department of a general hospital. I received an urgent call for trauma activation, which is triggered when a patient has a severe injury likely to require immediate surgery and which could lead to death in the Emergency Department (ED).
I rushed to the ED and saw a patient in her early 40s all covered in blood at the resuscitation trolley, with her body and neck twisted in an unnatural position. She had jumped off a building in a suicide attempt and sustained multiple fractures at her hip, spine, head, arms and legs.
Senior doctors from neurosurgery, general surgery and orthopaedic surgery had rushed down to attend to her, as she was quickly pushed into the operating theatre with a bleak prognosis.
The nurse and I waited for the patient's parents after contacting them. In 15 minutes, an old couple dashed towards us, anxious to know where their daughter was.
We explained to them the sequence of events, the patient's critical condition, adding that she was undergoing surgery but might not survive.
There was a loud sudden thud. Both the nurse and I were alarmed.
The patient's mother had fallen onto her knees, her face buried in her hands. Her shoulders began to shake uncontrollably as she let out a high-pitched wail and cried: "My daughter!" repeatedly as we tried to help her up.
Her husband took a few steps back slowly, completely speechless.
We quickly found a quiet room with chairs for them. The patient's mother continued to weep non-stop, while the father kept shaking his head in a daze.
I had to return to the ward for the rest of my on-call duties, but a colleague later informed me that the patient did not survive the operation.
To this day, I can still picture in my mind the patient's blood seeping through the sheets on the resuscitation trolley, the howls of pain from her mother and the motionless shock from her father.
Terror made them falter, and I can only imagine how devastating it was to the parents to lose their daughter overnight.
The second incident occurred at a medical ward.
The patient was in his 80s and bedbound with a failing renal transplant, though he was still relatively alert and communicative.
He came from a nursing home and was scheduled to return there upon discharge, but he wanted to see his family, especially his sons, while he was still in hospital.
The medical social worker tried countless times to reach his family. However, the sons were simply not contactable and no other family members came to visit him.
"Why? Why aren't my sons coming to see me? Do they not know that I'm still alive? Do they not know that I'm old and may die?" he would exclaim in Mandarin whenever anyone went into his room.
His eyes would open widely as he yowled with anguish and frustration. He would go on to describe how he worked hard as a carpenter to support his family, how he skipped meals to save up for his children’s education, and how ungrateful they were.
Eventually, he refused to take his medicine and kept reiterating that he would never forgive his children for abandoning him.
With time, his exclamations gradually stopped, but the medical social worker never managed to get in touch with his family to fulfil his dream of seeing his sons.
He was eventually discharged and returned to his nursing home, perhaps never having the chance to see his family thereafter.
To this day, his unfulfilled dreams and exclamations continue to echo in my mind as I recount this episode.
These real-life happenings are more terrifying than the thought of encountering the supernatural, as they are real with far-reaching implications.
Whenever I share these incidents with my friends, their eyes would open wide in terror, with levels of horror that perhaps far exceed that of any ghost story.
Devastating news, unfulfilled dreams and the inability to forgive are some issues that can haunt our lives.
I can only wish that those facing these issues would ultimately be able to reconcile the complex emotions and experiences to find their quiet and peace.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alvona Loh Zi Hui is a junior doctor working at a hospital in Singapore.