Midnight and I was squandering the time away gabbing and making jokes with some of my co-workers in a little room where the Hematology interns stay during the day. All my patients were sound asleep, and I myself, at some point in time, must have unknowingly fallen into a similar state because, by the time I checked my electronic charting in the computer, the clock read ten minutes to six. Two tasks highlighted in red appeared on the screen alerting me that medications were not given at 3 AM and at 4 AM.
I flew to the dispensary (med room) and gathered the medications for my patients then proceeded to room 104 firstly. Lying in bed was my patient, a husky septuagenarian. His son, of middle-age, was sitting comfortably on a chair right next to him. It was dim and the only light source came from the window. Outside, clouds covered the entire sky.
“Good morning … Pills.”
He turned to his son seeking some sort of clarification. His son whispered to his dad’s ear, then extended an arm toward me, saying in effect he will be undertaking the task of administering his dad’s medications. I handed them to him, and before I could exit the room, saw him slip a shiny capsule of beige color into his dad’s mouth. The latter bit on it and white serum gushed out. He took his time savoring it, although I doubted it couldn’t had been that flavorful. There was another dose of the same capsule in the medicine cup, but as I was racing against time, I didn’t stay for the giving of it.
No sooner had I left the room when I was called to return. I entered. Sitting beside the window was a young man in his early twenties. In his hand was the shiny beige capsule.
“What did you say the name of this medication was?” he inquired.
“Mercaptozosazole1,” I answered.
The young man proceeded to scrutinize it, sniffing it once, twice …
“No,” he said, “I don’t recognize this medicine. This is not one of grandpa’s medicines.”
The patient and his son now turned toward me, eyes perplexed and piercing. To reassure them, I made a promise to double-check, after all, home medications and the similar ones prescribed to patients admitted in the hospital can look different.
I began to tremble within nevertheless. I found myself in front of the patient medication cart next to the printer in the nursing station. Tried as I might to compose myself, my fingers however betrayed the endeavor as I fidgeted with the numeric pad, unsuccessful at opening the cart.
9 .. 7 .. 1 … 7 .. 6 — access code failed. Again. But it worked before. Why doesn’t it now? Did I scramble the digits?
It wasn’t so much the possibility of med error that harangued my conscience as it was the fact that I didn’t scan the medicine like I ought to. I remembered clearly how I ripped the silver packaging and put the pills into the medicine cup, undeniably certain I had the right medicine for the right patient. My being remiss in that responsibility was the source of my overwhelming guilt. So, there I was facing the medication cart, restlessly entering digits that did not avail.
“Can’t open it?”
A little voice broke through my anxious thoughts. It was Jill.
“Let me try.”
I stepped aside as she proceeded to enter the code into the numeric pad. I looked over her left shoulder to see where I had erred. Apparently, I was not even close. She was keying what looked like 7 or 8 digits, which convinced me the numbers were that of her cell phone.
Then a most singular thing happened — Just like that, she completely abandoned what she was doing and proceeded to chat with Leo.
What the hell, Jill?
I was never able to open it. Feeling trapped, I opened my eyes. And that was the end of it all.
Notes: 1Mercaptozosazole is not a name for a real drug. It’s probably a portmanteau of Mecaptopurine and Fluconazole (or Omeprazole … or any -azole drugs) that my mind decided to weave together during the dream.