“The butterfly effect is basically a theory saying that even a minor change in circumstances can lead to a major change in outcome. For example, a butterfly flapping its wings may alter the course of a tornado. The flapping itself will not directly affect the tornado but it might set off a chain of events that ultimately modifies the end result.” – Faisal Makki.
“It is not your fault. How many times do I have to tell you that?” I said with frustration. We were sitting at Second Cup, Tahlia branch, just Yousef and me. I have been trying to convince him for over an hour that he should stop blaming himself for Amal’s death. “It’s been over a month already. Don’t you think that it’s time you let it go?” “How can I let it go? If I can forget about her, I’m sure her family can’t. I shouldn’t even allow myself to forget. I should keep reminding myself of her so that I don’t make a similar mistake again. How can you, out of all people, ask me to leave it behind as if nothing has happened? Don’t you know me at all?” he nearly snapped at me. I shrugged and took a sip from my coffee. “I’m sorry, man. You know very well that I’m not angry at you, just myself,” he apologized immediately.
That was Yousef, constantly seeking perfection, constantly setting his standards higher than everyone else’s and demanding more from himself. He always prided himself on the fact that he was the top student in our class. Ever since we were kids back in elementary school up until the day we graduated from medical school, he scored the first place year after year. “I never make mistakes,” he frequently used to say. As arrogant as that statement was, it was very much true. Yousef never made mistakes. It was annoying and admirable at the same time. I personally looked up to him because in the unlikely event he did make a mistake; he would be the first one to admit it and beat himself about it. He would punish himself more than any other person would. He never took his mistakes lightly. He would work extremely hard to ensure that they would never happen again. He was like a machine that never stopped running. He had the utmost belief that his destiny is to become an excellent doctor. He was one of the rare few that actually chose medicine so that they can help others. Clichéd as that may sound; he wanted to save lives. Perhaps he had developed a hero complex from all the cartoons he used to watch back when he was a kid. Amal was his first chance to experience his dream in reality. Sadly, it did not go as he once hoped it would and he, in his opinion, has failed miserably. Therefore, I understood why this particular mistake was not easy for him to deal with. Someone has died and that is not something you can make up for or fix.
Yousef is also the type of man who never conceals the way he feels. He wears his emotions out on his sleeve as they say. You can look at his face and you will instantly know if he is happy, angry, disinterested or upset. That is why when I ran into him at the hospital the following day after Amal’s death I knew something was wrong. Of course, Yousef did not wait for me to ask him what is going on because he simply blurted it all out the minute he saw me. I have been trying to get his mind off her for the past month but to no avail. So there we were at Second Cup in another attempt to bring back the usually cheerful Yousef.
“You are a believer, right?” I said looking into his eyes. He nodded his head, “Don’t you think that God would have inspired you with the things to do if she was meant to live? Don’t you think that Mazin would’ve saved her? Don’t you think that the accident wouldn’t have taken place to begin with? There might be a bigger picture that you’re not seeing. God knows best and we are not to question his wisdom. There was nothing you could’ve done to prevent what’s been written,” I said. “Maybe,” he said, clearly not convinced. “Let’s look at it from a different angle. Don’t you think that you’re a good doctor? Didn’t you do all the reading you should have done and more? Don’t you think you have practiced hard and long enough? Well, maybe they didn’t prepare us to deal with such emergent situations. It’s not our fault. It’s the system’s fault,” I said. “And they leave us out alone in the jungle to learn by ourselves as if it’s fine to lose a few victims along the way, collaterals,” he said with spite. “Anyhow, now that you have taken the BLS again and the ACLS, do you think you would have done things much differently?” I asked him. “I don’t know, perhaps not much. I guess it means I need to take the ATLS course too,” he said. I looked at him in a funny way. This guy will never surrender. Yousef will never change. “Listen, Faisal, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. You know I will. I just need some time. This is only a mistake if I didn’t learn anything from it. Anyhow, enough about me. How’s Samar?” he said. “She’s fine. She’s still in Switzerland having fun. I miss her but she’ll be back in a couple of weeks so it’s all good.” I said with a smile at the mention of my fiancé.
We stayed at the place for half an hour more before we decided to go home and call it a night. Ever since we started our internships, sleeping early has become a necessity if we wanted to survive the grueling work. “You know what? If I ever got into a car accident and I was injured and rushed into an emergency room, I would want you to be the doctor treating me. How about that?” I said. He laughed and gave me half a hug. “You know I would take good care of you,” he said then paused for a second before continuing, “Thank you.” He waved goodbye and left.
Twenty years later, my son got into a major car accident and was emergently rushed to the hospital. Yousef, a Consultant Trauma Surgeon then, operated on him and literally saved his life. Amal’s death affected Yousef’s life and mine in more ways than we could have imagined back at the time when we were just fresh interns trying to find a meaning in what seemed like a random and tragic loss.
To be continued…