I drove to the hospital and got my white coat out the trunk of the car and put it on while walking inside. When I entered the building through the automatic glass doors the temperature dropped about 20 degrees as the air-conditioned air hit me with a blast of cold after coming out of the 90+ Atlanta afternoon. I turned the corner and saw Mrs. Gonzales in a chair in the hallway. She looked anxiously in my direction.
"Mrs. Gonzales, what are you doing here?" I said." You were just here yesterday."
"Ernesto had another of his chest pains," she said. "We had to call the ambulance."
"Where is he?"
"They took him in there." Mrs. Gonzales pointed toward the door. "I'm so scared." She said.
"Don't worry, I'll find out," I said. A sick feeling settled into the bottom of my stomach.
I pushed through the doors to the operating room. Several doctors stood around a stretcher. Tony eyed me. It was the end of a resuscitation attempt. Going through the motions at the plus 15 minute time point when everyone knows the guy is dead.
"We're calling it,"Tony said. I couldn't believe it. I just stood there, stunned.
Tony walked over to me.
"I know he was a special patient for you," he said.
"I can't believe it," I said. "I just put that stent in a few weeks ago."
"Shit happens. You can't control everything."
"But these stents were supposed to be better than the older ones."
"You can't save them all, Charlie. You've got to move on or it'll make you crazy."
"I always talked a good game about how much I cared. But the bottom line is that I never really gave a shit. It was always more about what people thought of me."
"You're excellent at what you do."
"Is that all that matters. Whether people think you're any good or not?"
"Come on, buddy-"
" --OK, I'll tell his wife. She's waiting outside."
I walked back into the hallway. I was filled with dread about the idea of having to tell Mrs. Gonzales that her husband was dead. He had been with her only minutes before and she had put all of her trust in me. She was anxiously looking in the direction of the door where her husband had last dissappeared. She turned her face to me and when she saw my expression I could see her face change. She knew.
I approached her. Inside I felt nauseated and afraid. I didn't want to let that on to her, though.
"I'm so sorry, Mrs Gonzales."
Her face dropped.
"How could that happen?" she said. "You just fixed his heart a few weeks ago."
"I'm not sure what happended. We'd like to do an autopsy to find out went wrong. We need your permission for that."
"Of course, Doctor."
I stood there for a moment, not knowing what to say. She looked down at her lap, silently weeping.
"Let me know if there is anything I can do for you," I said. Then I left.