It was 7pm.
Suhyuk was sitting in Prof. Han’s office.
“Would you like some coffee?”
“No thanks, sir.”
Looking at Suhyuk, Han stirred the coffee inside a paper cup.
And he sat, face to face with Suhyuk.
“Do you have any concerns? You don’t look so good.”
Fixing his eyes on the table, Suhyuk replied shortly, “No, sir.”
Taking the coffee to his lips, Han looked at him.
Just like a stone statue, who just showed indifference to his fellow medical staff, there was no change in his expression.
However, his face varied whenever he met with patients, as if he was a different person.
Sipping coffee, Han said to him suddenly,
“A doctor is not God.”
Suhyuk made a curious expression, not being able to figure out what he meant.
With a smile, Prof. Han took the paper cup to his lips.
There was a brief moment of silence between them.
Then Han said, “Patient Lee Jinho. Well, we couldn’t anything further for him.”
His body had been already overtaken by cancer cells, so they could not treat him.
Just having him hospitalized at the hospital was like killing his remaining time.
That’s why he did not try to have him, who said he wanted to get discharged, remain any longer.
“So, don’t blame yourself,” said Han.
“If we were god, could we treat him?’
Han just smiled bitterly at his asking.
“Do you know what? There were more than twenty patients who died before my eyes. Do you know what I thought then?”
Suhyuk looked at him.
“When I first performed the surgery, I was just crazy when the patient’s condition got worse. Because it all looked like my fault. Then, one year, then two, passed and I came to pray like this: If there is a God out there, please let the patients open their eyes.”
Putting down the paper coffee cup, Han opened his mouth again,
“Do you know what I think these days? I did my best, to the best of my ability. That’s what I did to patient Lee Jinho.”
Suhyuk nodded his head feebly.
“Did you ask me if God would have treated him?”
He was silently waiting for the professor’s reply.
“In my mind, there seemed to be no God. Because God never accepted my favor. Instead, the patient’s family was reflected in my eyes.”
Sometimes a patient who was about to die could regain his consciousness when he felt his family’s dedicated caring, and some patient’s heart began to beat miraculously when he heard the family’s voice. That was unexplainable in the medical world. It was just a miracle.
“The strength of the family took God’s place, is what I thought.”
Listening to him quietly, Suhyuk rose from his seat, saying, “Let me take my leave, sir.”
“Okay, don’t go to the patient’s room. Go straight home and have some rest. Let me inform them, so just go home. Okay?”
Suhyuk just bowed his head at his words.
“Reply to me! Take a break today, okay?”
“Yes, sir,” said Suhyuk reluctantly.
Only then did Han make a satisfied expression.
Suhyuk turned around and headed toward the door. Today he looked unusually feeble.
Looking at him, Han murmued, ‘He’ll have to realise it someday.’
Namely that, he could not save all the patients’ lives.
As directed by Han, Suhyuk headed back to his lodging.
On the way, he felt eager to go back to the hospital wards, and could barely suppress that desire. For he noticed a text message from Prof. Han: <Take a rest> which finally convinced him to take a rest
Standing before a mirror, he looked at himself, and also looked down at his empty hands.
A sense of helplessness.
There were many who died at Daehan Hospital, but it was the first time he met such a patient who was knocking on death’s door.
Taking a deep breath, he lay on the bed.
Patient Lee Jinhan. What’s he doing now? Is he happy or unhappy?
Maybe he must be happy because his smile was genuine when he looked at his wife and daughter.
He was a wonderful man, who put up with the open surgery as well as the surgery that required planting a metal pin in his legs. He went back home with a smile.
What made him mentally strong like that?
Suddenly Prof. Han’s remarks came to his mind.
Though there was no God, he had a family.
Suhyuk opened his closed eyes slowly, and touched his cell phone.
Suddenly he wanted to hear his family’s voice.
“Oh, son. How come you are calling me at this time? Aren’t you busy now?”
“No, I’m fine. Did you eat Mom?”
“Of course, it’s well past dinner time. How about you, son?”
“I did. Is daddy in?”
“Oh, he’s sleeping now after he had some drinks during the day.”
Suhyuk nodded his head slowly. His father sometimes would have drinks with his friends when he had no work to do.
“Mom, please come and visit for a medical check-up one of these days.”
“Me and your father aren’t sick at all. How about you? I saw on TV that doctors are so busy. Do you eat regularly?”
He just felt good whenever he heard his mother’s voice.
What bothered him a bit was that she’s just concerned about him, not herself.
“Yes, Mom. I got fat these days thanks to good food. I’m also working tactfully.
Please come to the hospital with father one of these days.”
“I’m afraid we’re obstructing you because you’re busy…”
“No, mom. Please don’t fail to stop by.”
Though he could not make them live in luxury right now, he wanted to take care of their health.
Aside from him being their son, he was a doctor.
“Sure, son. Will do. I could live high on the hog thanks to my doctor son!”
He felt as if her warm voice was creeping into his heart.
Though it was what he had to do as a son, his parents still felt so thankful to him.
Lee Jinhan would have felt the same thing for his family.
“Okay, let me know when you will come here, so I can make a reservation.”
“Sure, let me talk to your father, so we can adjust our schedule to visit you.”
They talked like that for a few more minutes.
Mostly his mother was on the talking side.
After the phone call, Suhyuk thought about things for a little while, eyes closed.
‘When can I relieve them of any concern about me? Even if I’m okay, they still keep so many concerns about me.’
And that’s the heart of the parents who have children.
Suhyuk could feel it distantly after having watched Lee Jinhan.
It was getting dark, with the hand of the clock pointing to 9pm.
Out of dozing off and exhaustion, Suhyuk fell into sleep.
It was all white around him.
When Suhyuk was looking around, he heard someone walking toward him in the distance.
The identity of the man, veiled by some white light mass, began to show itself slowly.
It was a human being that looked just like him.
Soon the guy, coming close up to him, smiled and opened his mouth,
“Long time, no see.”
“Who are you?”
The guy put his hand on his forehead at his asking.
“You really don’t know who I am?”
The guy circled around Suhyuk as if he was appreciating his body.
“It’s a dream….”
Hearing Suhyuk murmuring, the guy stopped and turned his head to him.
“It’s half true, half false.”
And the guy came up to Suhyuk, saying something into his ear,
“You killed patient Lee Jinhan.”
Suhyuk’s black pupils trembled a lot.
“His condition was something I could not do anything about.”
“You’re making an excuse even if you didn’t make any attempt to save him. You’re not a doctor, but a murderer who just looked on.”
‘Am I a murderer?’
Suhyuk knitted his brows.
“What did you think when Lee Jinhan was getting discharged? You must have said “Good riddance! As if a troublesome patient has finally gone away.”
Suhyuk shook his head, and grabbed him by the collar.
“Don’t make any rash judgement if you don’t know anything about me!”
As if he was choked, he made a moan, but he was smiling,
“Hey, let go of your hand, so I can talk.”
When Suhyuk let go of his throat, the guy touched his neck and shouted,
“You murderer, son of a bitch!”
Then Suhyuk threw a punch at him, “I told you not to talk thoughtlessly like that!”
Squatting on the floor, the guy said, looking up at Suhyuk,
“You could have treated him.”
Suhyuk shook his head slowly, answering, “No, I could not. What I could do was let him get discharged as soon as possible.”
Yes, so that he could spend time with his family for one more minute and one more second.
The guy just chuckled, and retorted,
“Okay, let me give you the benefit of the doubt. What if another patient like Lee Jinhan came to you? What would you do, just looking on like you did to Lee last time?”
Suhyuk could not say anything.
Then the guy, with a smile, said, “Let me help you,” and reached out his hand.
“How can you can help me?”
Suhyuk was just looking at him blankly.
“Am I scary? Just hold my hands, that’s it. Not a big deal.”
Suhyuk held his hands silently.
A noisy alarm sound woke him up, but Suhyuk turned it off, eyes still closed.
And with a deep sigh, he rose from the bed.
Turning on the light he looked at himself in the mirror silently.
How much time passed?
Sweeping up his hair, he grabbed the pillow on the bed and threw it at his friend sleeping on the upper bed.
“Ooops! What’s this?”
When he woke up from bed, Suhyuk already went out.
After a light breakfast Suhyuk got on the elevator, and headed for the patients’ wards.
“Did you have a good break?” said Im Gyungsu.
Turning over a chart, Suhyuk nodded slightly at his asking.
Then, Im made a frown because he felt Suhyuk was acting arrogant.
“What were you doing, sir?”
Im gave him a chart, saying,
“The patient was taken to the hospital a moment ago, but his condition is sort of confusing. He is now taking a CT and X-ray, so let’s see what it shows us.”
Suhyuk was looking into the chart containing a record on the doctor’s conversation with the patient.
<Less acute sense, pain, swollen arm and discolored skin>
Suhyuk, making a frown, looked at Im, as if he was asking him why he could not diagnose this kind of symptom as a doctor.
“Isn’t this thoracic outlet syndrome?” said Suhyuk.