Musings

Once bitten, twice shy

My mother was being posted for her knee replacement surgery. Her anesthetists had proclaimed her fit for surgery. But I put my foot down. Her urine culture reports showed growth of some organisms. And I was worried that post-operatively this might impact the healing of her wound. The orthopedic surgeons who were in charge of my mother were miffed with me for over-reacting. The organisms weren’t significant, they said. But I wasn’t listening. They were forced to delay the surgery for a week until she had a clear report. There was reason for my stubbornness, which they did not understand. I had lost one parent fifteen years ago to this reason. Not again. I wasn’t willing to take this risk.

In 2000, my father who was severely diabetic had run out of options for his kidney failure. Dialysis wasn’t working. He was advised a renal transplant. We were in one of the country’s premier hospitals for the surgery. Since I was donating my kidney, I was being made to run around for one procedure after another. In my absence, he underwent his pre-anesthetic check-up. When I returned to his room in the hospital that afternoon, he told me that all had gone well. “I did not cough even once in front of the anesthetist,” he boasted. Something else distracted my attention at that moment — maybe a nurse or a relative. I can’t exactly remember, but the conversation ended there, and this important fact slipped my attention. And for the rest of my life I will regret not reacting to that statement. I should have known the implications of hiding the truth.

After the transplant surgery, things went completely downhill. He had to be given immunosuppressants as normal protocol to allow acceptance of the foreign kidney. Unfortunately, under immunosuppression, the minor chest infection which he had concealed, now spread throughout his lungs. It was a losing battle all through. His doctors struggled to balance the doses of antibiotics and immunosuppressants. He lay comatose until we lost him a month later. And I haven’t forgiven myself for that error of judgement. I am always wary of post-surgical infections since that day.

I had learnt my lesson the very hard way. But there are more such incidences which make you wary. People, for instance. When someone you place on a pedestal topples over, the breach of trust leaves scars which linger on lifelong. When people who are close to you take advantage of your vulnerability, and worse, misconstrue your silence for weakness, the most logical way out is to snap off all ties. Not for them, but for yourself. You don’t want to go through that cycle of hurt and pain all over again. Maybe one is completely wrong in reacting that way, but each bitter experience colours the lens with which you view people again. Life is like that. You learn your lessons the painful way.

Trust has a very fleeting quality to it. Once broken, it seldom recovers to normalcy. And you wall yourself against warmth and love, lest you are hurt again.

(The featured painting is Mistrust by Svetlana Tikhonova)

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