Chapter 53: The thing in the Banyan Tree
"It's you! The thing inside the Banyan Tree… Please… Let me go…"
The patient on the stretcher bed screamed in a hoarse and pained tone. Suddenly, he broke out in a loud uncontrollable cry. All of the fury and puzzlement had disappeared from his face in an instant. In place of the twisted anger, the horrors of death and a certain sense of mediocrity as he pleaded for a chance to live had gushed out, "I'm begging you… I don't wanna die… Please! Let me go…"
Gu Jun's brows puckered as his teeth bit on his lower lip.
Has this man seen me before? Could he be the one that I spoke with on the phone? Impossible, Gurong Village had long been cleared out and isolated. They don't have these many villagers either.
"Move aside please." A nurse rushed over and expertly pushed the patient away. On every nurse, a wireless communication device was connected to an earpiece. As she pushed the patient away, she reported to the command centre, "Orthopaedics, patient No. 128 is showing signs of delirium. He might be exacerbating towards the bereavement stage."
"Oh shucks…" Zhou Jiaqiang muttered to himself. Immediately, he turned and explained to the trainees, "This patient needs immediate medical treatment. If he really enters the bereavement stage, there is no saving him. Speaking gibberish is a tell-tale sign of deterioration. For some reason, they all speak of the "thing in the Banyan Tree". Till now, we don't know what it is."
Those words made Gu Jun recall a memory. He quickly recalled the words that the person on the phone told him. While that man also mentioned, "the thing in the Banyan Tree", he did not mention "you". He turned to Brother Qiang and asked, "Brother Qiang, do they also single out others and say, "it's you!"?"
"Hmm, this is also the first time I've seen this." Zhou Jiaqiang remained nonchalant about the situation. "Delirium is due to an abrupt change in the brain that causes mental confusion and emotional disruption. It's normal. Come on. Let's go."
As they moved on, Gu Jun followed behind Zhou Jiaqiang and asked again, "Brother Qiang, where did these patients come from? Is it a different place from the Banyan Malformation Disease patient we saw at the competition?"
"You know I can't tell you anything. Not that I know the answers too," Zhou Jiaqiang sternly replied. "We just need to do our job as clinical medicine practitioners and save people."
Before the corridor ended, another patient's condition took a sudden downturn and entered delirium. He lost all control mentally and howled loudly, "The thing in the Banyan Tree. No, don't come closer! Let … Let me go… No…. the thing… in the Banyan Tree…"
Without delay, another nurse rushed over and yelled into the earpiece, "Patient 143 is showing signs of delirium!"
"That's odd." Perplexed, Zhou Jiaqiang scratched his head. "This batch of patients just entered the 2nd stage. Logically, the progression should not be this quick. We should have another few days…"
The hair-raising shrieks had everyone's expression turned sullen. Looking at the patient, Gu Jun's heart raced. He hoped he was wrong, but it seemed like Patient 143 only exacerbated after their gazes met. Furthermore, it was as if they had met before and "the thing in the Banyan Tree" was him.
Needles of pain repeatedly nailed into his brains, sending waves after waves of pulsating pain. Gu Jun clutched his head as he winced. This sense of annoyance and anxiety was intensifying. He could feel it; a vision was coming.
Would the vision be directly linked to the Banyan Malformation Disease patients? He still lacked a related venue..
"Gu Jun, are you alright?" in an undertone, Wang Ruoxiang whispered to Gu Jun. She had noticed the pale frail expression on Gu Jun. This was unexpected, the Gu Jun she knew in her mind was not this timid.
"I'm… fine." in a somewhat trembling voice, Gu Jun forced out a response. "Seeing them like this, I just feel a little uncomfortable." It was his genuine emotions.
"Me too…" Wang Ruoxiang's face was flushed with a mixture of horror, anxiety, and sorrow. Her lips attempted a smile, but her eyes could not hide the churning worries.
Zhou Jiaqiang gestured, urging them to keep up. As they walked on, they soon arrived at a spacious office. Within it, a cacophony of hurried discussions could be heard. Evidently, the sudden deterioration of the 2 patients had thrown everyone off course. Two extra teams had to be used immediately.
Of course, such unanticipated circumstances had to be left to the veteran teams.
Zhou Jiaqiang gave some final words of advice and left the 5 trainees to an errand nurse. Bidding goodbye to his students, he rushed off to settle his own work.
Only at this time did Gu Jun hear that he was selected to be part of Doctor Zhu Ruiwen's team. Following the errand nurse, he toured the common areas of the group; resting room, changing room, and operating theater.
The final destination was the team's office. As Gu Jun entered, he saw a middle-aged gentleman smiling warmly at him. This man was the primary surgeon, Doctor Zhu Ruiwen. With him were the anaesthetist, Yan Haizhe, and 1st assistant, Zen Jianguo. All of them were amicable and welcoming towards their newest member. Lastly, the third assistant was a newly promoted G-Level member of his age, Li Hualong.
Unlike Gu Jun, Li Hualong had gone to a hospital for an internship. Just like Brother Qiang, he was selected into the Phecda from there. Surprisingly, Li Hualong was also very polite to Gu Jun; a little too polite even. It's not tricky for Gu Jun to guess the reason. He had entered the team late, yet he became the second assistant first. It was only natural that Li Hualong was a little unhappy yet had to hide his dissatisfaction.
However, there were more pressing emergencies at the moment. Both of them had set aside any unpleasant thoughts and were focused on listening to the operation brief for patient No. 25 from Team Leader Zhu. This would be the first operation in the afternoon.
It was also at this time that a detail yanked up Gu Jun's heart, "We are using local anaesthesia?!"
"Yes," Zhu Ruiwen's said expressionlessly. His stern response clearly indicated that this was not a tease for the newcomer. "The amputation surgery of patients with Banyan Malformation Disease cannot be done with general anaesthesia. Otherwise, the chances of acute heart failure during the operation is high. In that case, the rate of failure will be higher. Not only that, but more than 80% of patients with general anaesthesia also lost a majority of their cognitive senses when they woke up. For their sake, we are only left with the option of local anaesthesia."
Within the office, he was the only one who was unaware and stumped speechless.
During the competition, the medical department only played a silent video of the operation. The only information given to them was that 2nd Stage patients still had chances of treatment. However, further details like the success rates were withheld. All of the students present had presumed and given themselves a false sense of 100% recovery.
A forequarter amputation, or in layman terms, sawing off the entire hand together with the shoulder. This was major surgery and would take at least 3 hours.
Yet, they were using local anaesthesia…
"It would be the biggest test of the patient's mental resilience," Zhu Ruiwen's words were somewhat inspirational. "But it would be an even bigger test for our mental strength."
Silently, Gu Jun nodded. His listless eyes and pale face stared at his toes. Li Hualong did not take the chance to mock or tease him. Instead, he sent a firm pat onto Gu Jun's shoulders and gave him an encouraging smile. "No worries. With Local Anaesthesia, the success rate is as high as 76%."
Feeling the firm grip on his shoulders, Gu Jun was wholly grateful.
Looks like he isn't a bad guy. Well, no surprises since he did pass that harsh, gruelling interview.
Within a short time before the operation, Gu Jun familiarised himself with the team and the plan for the afternoon. By the time he finished his lunchbox, the first operation was already due to begin.
Following Zhu Ruiwen and the others, Gu Jun donned the sterilised clothes and disinfected himself. After suiting himself with a surgical gown and gloves, he headed to the operating theater.
It was very similar to regular operation until a screeching cry, like nails clawing at a chalkboard, shattered the silence in the operating theatre. "AHH! AHH!"
"Phoo.." Taking a deep breath, Gu Jun followed the team out of the changing room and strode through the doors of the operating theatre. The air was distinctively denser. Through his mask, he could catch a whiff of the distinct pungent smell from the malformed limb. This scent fumed his nostrils, up to his head. The familiar pounding then rocked his head again.
The spacious and bright operating room was fully equipped with an operating bed, shadowless lamp, medical utility columns, and instrument table. A male patient had been laid on the operating bed in a lateral position. The nurses had connected him to various ventilators, anaesthesia monitors, and other monitoring equipment. His torso and healthy limbs were completely secured onto the operating bed by a customised leather body protector. Only the left upper arm was exposed, clearly malformed and twisted.
Zhu Ruiwen took the lead and took his position as the primary surgeon. Anaesthetist Yan Haizhe sat at the anaesthesia machine and kept his eyes fixated at the index data.
"Help me…" The patient kept struggling and screaming unceasingly.
As the cries reverberated with the beeping of the equipment, Gu Jun could feel his heartbeat and psychological pressure surging. Even if he had countless nightmarish encounters and the Hands of Dexterity at his disposal, he could still feel his muscles tightening and even fossilising. Despite being surrounded by the cutting edge equipment, the atmosphere of the room was chillingly identical to a scene from the stone age when anaesthesia was unheard of.
When juxtaposed to this scene, the canine thoracotomy surgery he led an hour ago was just like a child's play.
"Everyone, in your positions please." Zhu Ruiwen readied himself by the left side of the patient. The 1st assistant, Zen Jianguo, and Gu Jun immediately stood at the opposite and by the left of the primary surgeon respectively. The 3rd assistant, Li Hualong, stood opposite Gu Jun. As they did the final preparations, the scrub nurse and circulating nurses were all busy ensuring the readiness of the equipment.
"You…" The patient on the operating table turned to look at them. When something entered his eye, he suddenly panicked and wriggled uncontrollably "The thing in the banyan tree! No, don't…"
Gu Jun's heart clenched tightly. This time, he was very sure. The patient made contact with his eyes and…
No. 128, No. 143, No. 25. Three patients. Why, why does it seem that I will speed up the development of their disease? Why?!
Gu Jun's mind felt blank. A suffocating sensation appeared as if something blocked his throat. His face winced in pain as he gasped for air. It was extremely uncomfortable. Then, he felt nails repeatedly hammering into his head, as if his brains were being split apart.
In front of him, a blinding light shone into his eyes. The vision had appeared again after half a month. The operating theater zoomed away. In a few moments, he could not hear the screams of the patient as his surroundings fell into silence. The vision and the strange lights and shadows gradually became real.
An ancient giant banyan tree materialised beside him. All around him, silhouettes were on the ground kneeling and paying their worship to the banyan tree.