I must see new things
And investigate them.
I want to taste dark water
And see crackling trees and wild winds.
I’m standing on the tarmac in Manaus, Brazil, where there is indeed a wild wind; it blows debris across the runway yet does nothing to stave off the nearly intolerable heat. Sweat soaks my back and drips down the center of my chest. My limbs are heavy with lethargy. The heat index is 110 but it feels much hotter—even the Learjet fails to provide a haven from the equatorial sun.
We’d come to Brazil to repatriate an Englishman who’d been visiting family and was struck down by sudden and severe seizures. He’d spent weeks in the hospital, sustaining scans and diagnostics to pinpoint the cause, and endured the addition of one antiepileptic medication after another.
While the seizures finally ceased, he was left disquieted and uncomfortable, unsure which symptoms were due to the 7 cm brain mass that had been discovered and which were side effects of the myriad of antidotes. By the time we were dispatched for this mission, he was medically stable and ready to go home to deal with the ominous findings. Biopsies awaited and treatments would be considered. Plans could be made.
Conversations in the In-Between
His long flight was one that seemed to serve a purpose far greater than physical transport. Away from the confines of the hospital and the doting attention of his family, he had time to process the implications of a brain mass. He pondered aloud the best- and worst-case scenarios and all of the “what ifs” in between. He napped often, awakening to ask my partner and myself a series of questions of which we never tired. (“What if it’s malignant?” “Will they operate?” “How will they operate?” “What if they can’t operate?” “What if I have no time left…?”)
By the time we reached the hospital near his home, his questions had slowed and nearly ceased. The flight was cathartic, I think. Our patient seemed at peace. […]