HEART LIES

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EOMMA

Seoul, 12 years ago

“Eomma, Eomma,” the boy cried. He gripped his mother’s hand as the nurses pulled her bed into the operating block. The boy let go in front of the doors. He walked a few meters to where the seats were.

The boy hated hospitals, yet they were like a second home, for this was where his mother dwelt most of the time.

Like rolling stones, they would move from a hospital to another from facilities to other facilities. From a surgery block to another. An endless vinyl rotation but never playing the same tune.

And today another emergency, same worry, and fears, Ji-Seong detested it.

Sometimes he hated his mother more than the disease devouring her.

Why did she let it invade her?

Why was she so weak?

“Ji-Seong-ah, don’t worry, I’ll be fine,” his mother would say, gripping the photo of him as a toddler. The woman clutched the snapshot, which accompanied her in the surgery block like a rabbit’s foot.

Everyone has their lucky charm for Mun Nari; her son’s photo was like having a life-jacket and anchor which held on to life.

“Qwenchana,” Na Ri would repeat.

Na Ri was never fine; she hung like a puppet on one string, which saw its fibers wear and tear. Ji-Seong wondered when it would snap, and she would fall when he saw how she suffered. All he wished was for the macabre cycle to end.

Here they were for another operation with another Doctor.

From where Ji-Seong stood, the doctor seemed young, too young. The boy did not know if it was the short boyish haircut or her overall excitement as she jumped on the spot as if she was entering a boxing ring. She placed her hands in front of her, closed her eyes, and moved them on the space before her.

Did she have enough experience to proceed to this? Ji-Seong did not wish his mother to be some rookie’s guinea pig.

“Don’t worry,” a nurse standing next to him said, “the doctor doesn’t look like it, but she’s talented. Some even call her the hand of God. Dr. Lee loses no one.”

As the nurse finished her sentence, Dr. Lee entered the block.

In another wing chief, Choi Byun Hyun was alerted.

“Mwo, the defense minister’s wife is being operated by who?”

“Dr. Lee.”

The man bolted out of his seat, “fetch me, Dr. Ahn and Dr. Jang tell them to head there and stop her.”

Mun Na Ri was not just an ordinary patient; she was a VVIP, the wife of a minister, and there was no way the chief would let the impetuous little Dr. Lee shine a bit more.

The woman was a persistent migraine and never-ending since dr. Lee came back from her course in Paris Institut Pastor; she walked around as if she was the queen of the jungle, which was their hospital, pulling the rug on expert diagnostics.

The chief could not stand her, for he knew Dr. Lee Sa rang’s ambition. The woman planned to change the game, and it was working as she ridiculized her elders with every successful operation, without any error. And there was her almost flawless rate of 99.5%. How can someone succeed at every time?

Dr. Lee did not cheat; she saved lives every day without fail.

Dr. Lee was about to start opening the thorax.

“Scalpel.”

In the hall outside, Ji-Seong got up as he saw the army of doctors arrive and flood into his mother’s block.

“Stop.”

“What are you doing? I’m operating,” the doctor answered, surprised by the armada which came to fetch her.

“As the chief of this department seeing how important the patient is, it would be better if I operate.”

“Mwo?”

“Ahem, ahem,” the chief cleared his throat.

“You can’t be serious; she’s my patient; it’s my watch.”

“Dr. Lee, you can’t refuse a direct order,” Dr. Siwon said.

“But doctor, I’ve seen a case like this before. Multiple metastatic regions must be cut at the root. I will work with Doctor Chung.”

“Have you seen it with the family?”

“Dr., you can’t be serious. If we don’t do this right now, she’ll die.”

“We will take it from here,” Chief Choi said. The new team of doctors was already dressed and ready to scrub in.

Angry Sa-rang bolted out of the block, chucking her mask in the bin in front of Ji-Seong, who panicked.

Why was she in the corridor? Ji-Seong wondered.

Why did these doctors go inside?

Wasn’t she supposed to be the hand of God, the one supposed to save his mother?

Sa-rang placed her hands on her hips and looked at the ceiling. She exhaled before glancing down the corridor where she saw hopeless Ji-Seong standing there, hands by his side.

She was about to take a step in his direction when Dr. Chung came out.

“Sa-rang, it’s not against you.”

Sa rang, furrowed her eyebrows, “the chief hates me; you know why he is doing this? For the show, he wants the glory of having saved the minster’s wife.”

“And you, isn’t it what you wanted too?”

“Oh, come on, So-Jun, you know that my priority is the patient’s life, and he can’t handle what he’ll find. I studied the file; this is her last chance if he makes one mistake-,” Sa-rang stopped remembering the boy.

“Listen, Sa-rang, think of it as a blessing. She is doomed if you operate her, you’ll give her what 30days. Let him do it if it goes wrong; then he’ll be the culprit. Wash your hands of this one.”

A nurse came running asking Sa-rang to intervene in another block; Dr.Lee immediately went to help, only to run back an hour later to Mun Na Ri’s surgery, where they called her for an emergency. When she entered, the block was a mess.

Sa-rang understood she was there for the cleanup; she tried her best.

Two hours later, chief Choi announced Mun Nari’s hour of death. Everyone left the room where only Sa-rang remained, looking at the first patient she lost.

“It’s not your fault,” Dr. Chung said, tapping on her shoulder, but for Sa-rang, she should not have left her patient in the chief’s hands. The man found himself submerged by what he saw when he opened, and when Sa-rang came back, Mun Nari was already in a critical state.

Even from the inside, one could hear Ji-Seong’s cry; Sa-rang did not want to face him; she could not. She stayed in the operating block till the screams and the howling died out.

She worked in Seoul’s top-notched hospital affiliated with the prestigious Seoul university from which she graduated. Sa-rang was proud of being part of this elite to this day, where she saw the face of unlawful ambition.

The hospital board and minister of Defence Chae gave her a hard welcome when she stepped out.

“What did you do to my wife?”

Sa-rang bowed, “Cheseonghabnida [I’m sorry].”

“WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY WIFE,” screamed the man on Sa-rang’s face.

“Cheogmal cheseonghabnimda, I’m sorry, I’m so very sorry,” Sa-rang said, kneeling in front of the minister under Ji-Seong’s eyes. The boy was too in shock to assimilate what was happening.

Lee Sa-rang’s apologizing gesture surprised all the doctors who watched the scene. Little did they know that the scene would be the last, Sa-rang had no intention of being humiliated the same way ever again.

The minister raised his hand in anger before regaining his composure.

Sa-rang got up and walked towards Ji-Seong. She knew how it felt to see a loved one go into a surgery block and not come back.

One loathed the doctor who led the operation though fully aware it was not their fault; one needs someone to blame for this loss, which nothing can console; Sa-rang bowed in front of the boy who lifted his hand like his father and suddenly halted to pursue with the strangest of gestures.

He patted Sa-rang on the head, who lifted her face to meet his gaze, where she saw the making of the void, the same one she carried like all those suffering from the loss of a parent.

Eomma’s boy was no more.

Blamed and shunned by her peers, Sa-rang left, and the boy watched her despair down the corridor.

All the accusative fingers pointed at the woman as if she was the one who had led the surgery.

If it were not for the Director’s Hong intervention, Sa-rang’s career would have ended there. Another factor that helped her out was the patient’s son’s testimony, who had paid attention to the takes leading to his mother’s death.

“Director Hong, I didn’tㅡ.”

“Arayo [I know] Dr. Lee, the cameras are formal, but the minister wants your head. I have no choice, you are a good doctor, and the country needs natural-born doctors like you. Here’s my recommendation. Good luck.”

Sa-rang took the letter and bowed. From then on, the woman’s access to the highest-ranking establishments found itself barred. Step by step, she rebuilt a reputation for herself till the day those who snubbed her came begging. But she had made her choice; she would not work in any private clinic.

Like everyone, Ji-Seong heard of the doctor’s reckless behavior, but he knew better than anyone else. Lee Sa-rang wanted to try to save Mun Na Ri even if there was no hope; she desired to attempt the impossible for the hopeless boy who stood in the corridor.

Lee Sa-rang, the name was embossed in the mind of a boy who made a promise to meet her again, for she was his beginning the person who reeled him into a twisted reality.

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