romanian literary monthly

~ Aurel David: „The Contract with Death“

After his speedy recovery, ensuing from the paralysis that had kept him in bed for a few weeks, Danny still had some trouble moving around. He had been left with a slight blockage of his right hand; even his leg seemed to pull back every time that he tried to walk.

Three years had quietly gone by since the vascular accident, time during which Danny conversed with dr. Dumitru Ionescu. One morning Danny rose a little abruptly in his bed. A slight dizziness forced him to realign himself in the horizontal position. Trying again to rise, in slow motion, the dizziness did not come back.

That evening, Danny called the doctor and told him what happened.

“Do you still take any medicines?” asked the doctor.

 “Only about a half of an aspirin. After lunch”.

“Very well. How long has it been since your release from the hospital?”

“Two years and nine months”.

“We had had an agreement for you to come to the two-year check-up. Why did you neglect it?”

“Because I’m… foolish”.

“I’m expecting you as soon as possible in Bucharest! I have to keep you in the hospital for at least three days…”

“That means I’ll have to solicit a note from the family doctor, more papers”.

“You’re right. I’ll be expecting you!”

“I can’t tomorrow. Is the day after tomorrow all right?”

“Whatever you can do. Just stop postponing the checkup!”

In the middle of that week, Danny climbed aboard his Dacia and presented himself to the clinic where Dr. Dumitru Ionescu worked.

With all his connections inside the hospital, Danny still had to wait hours for all of the formalities necessary for checking into the hospital to be complete. Only by the following day was he able to run all his test, including the tomography.

“Should I repeat the MRI? Something there?”

“May be, if we don’t take care of it…”

“That’s why I came”.

“Go to Dr. Vasile Ciobotaru, from the Bagdasar-Arseni Neurosurgery Clinic. Go to him tomorrow. See what he says. It is possible that you may need to undergo surgery in order to remove the malignancy on your brain”.

“Really, doctor? Open up my head?”

“If he will consider it necessary, he will perform the surgery…”

At Dr. Vasile Ciobotaru’s office, on the sixth floor of the clinic, many people.

Danny became fearful that he would have to wait for hours on end. A miscalculation! After lees than forty-five minutes he reached the doctor’s office. He showed him the recommendation from Dr.Dumitru Ionescu, and also presented him with the CD on which were contained the latest images from his tomography.

“I will go and have a look at this. We will talk upon my return”.

In less than five minutes Danny was called back into the doctor’s office.

“The computer here refuses to read this CD. I will try it at my computer at home this afternoon. I will be expecting you back tomorrow morning”.

The conversation on the second day was short and to the point.

“On the right side of brain there is a pretty large tumor. It is not known what its evolution will be over time. I say that we operate on it”.

“When, doctor?”

“I don’t know. My schedule is very full. I have to be present at some national and international professional conferences. I have appointments for about forty-five days from now”.

“What do you recommend?”

“Will you be O.K. for two more months?”

“Let’s hope so.”

“It will be good if you could come back for surgery in sixty days”.

They came to an understanding.

Before going into surgery, Danny went and spoke with Dr. Vica, a neighbor in his building, who had had brain surgery at the same clinic.

“How is it over there?”


    “At the hospital where you had your head opened.”.

“Why do you talk that way? The surgery in the respective area is a true “sculpture in the brain” as Leon Danaila well puts it”.

“Who is this man?”

“He is a renowned surgeon , especially abroad. He was the right hand man of Dr. Arseni”.

“I met Dr. Arseni personally. He was supposed to operate on one of my brothers-in-law. But it wasn’t meant to be, because the young man vanished…”

“Now, Hospital No.9, as it was known some years ago, of neurosurgery today, has the name Bagdasar-Arseni. That’s where the doctor who performed surgery on me, Dr. Leon Danaila,works. He even wrote a book about such medical procedures, “Sculpture in the brain”, of which he gave me an autographed copy”.

“I would be interested in reading it”.

“I will lend it to you with pleasure”.

In a few hours, Danny had already gone through the text without taking any breaks. He discovered a live, trained, and instructive dialogue between Dr. Leon Danaila and Dr. Dora Petrila, the latter being a primary doctor of intensive anesthetic therapy, chief of staff at the anesthetic-recovery cardiovascular surgery section the clinic Hospital at Fundeni.

From the respective dialogue, between the two professionals, Danny found out a multitude of information about the neurosurgery practiced in his country, as well as about the neurosurgery practiced in the specialty clinics found in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Russia…where Dr. Leon Danaila has had the chance to work. Namely, the Romanian specialist used the laser in neurosurgery for the first time in our country.

Dr. Dumitru Ionescu had told Danny that he had a malignancy on the brain, but he hadn’t gone into details about this cerebral tumor, details that Danny found described in the book by Dr. Leon Danaila. A volume in which Danny found relevant information about the vascular accident which had “found” him also, and about the tomography diagrams…

After a second reading of the book, Danny was convinced that he could try this “head cracking” procedure on his own skin.

On the agreed day, he installed himself onto the line that had formed at the door of Dr. Vasile Ciobotaru. There followed a regular checkup, after which he had to carry various papers up and down, left and right, to different offices. When things seemed to have finally calmed down, Danny found himself faced with another problem. The bed that he had been assigned seemed to have two occupants.

After much deliberation a solution was finally found: the installation of a temporary bed.

“Have you had breakfast this morning?” asked a nurse.


“It would be necessary to run a tomography on your stomach”.

“I hadn’t been told of it. We will leave it for tomorrow. Tomorrow turned into more consultation, more appointments.”

“For your illness you will need an MRI”, was of the opinion one patient in his room.

An MRI was not necessary, only a plain tomography.

On the fourth day, Dan had to bear, after all, another inhabitant in his bed for one night: the forester Nicu Balasa, from the Vrancea area, with whom he got along pretty well. The man had his own misfortune with his spinal cord.

Only on the fifth day did they come after Danny.

“We’re going to the operation room!”

Short, with no comment.

Danny had signed, the previous day, a sort of “contract” through which he agreed to undergo surgery with no pretenses in case that, God forbid, anything unforeseen were to happen. Either from his fault, or the medicines, or of the machinery, or from doctor’s mistake.

A sort of contract with death! What was he to do? If this seems to be the trend everywhere else!

Around eleven o’clock came the anesthesia.

“Are we going to operate?” was doctor Valentin Munteanu’s last question, graduate of the Medical School at Targu Mures, the right hand of Dr. Vasile Ciobotaru.

“Can I change my mind?”

“It is your choice, came the optimist, but decisive, response of Dr. Valentin Munteanu.

“Chisel away!”

“It doesn’t quite work that way… We will cut part of your cranium on the right side”.

“Let’s do it!”

“With you willing…”

Danny lost track of his words, all contact with his surroundings.

During those four hours of surgery he encountered some unreal, blurred characters

“Are you coming with us?”


“You’ll see.”

“Are you with those who carry scythes? Where are your instruments?”

“We are not with any type of vessel”.

In the medium he had reached, Danny could not see except blurry beings, which seemed to communicate with one another through light signals.

When he had finally decided to go along with one of the beings, he felt pinched very hard by his left breast.

“Danny, Danny! That’s it! Wake up!”

He woke up to real life. Above him was the figure of a familiar earthly, human being. Slowly he realized that it was the smiling, encouraging face of Dr. Vasile Ciobotaru.

“That’s it, you’ve slept long enough!”

“Did you crack my head open?”

“I performed the surgery”

Another day passed. Time during which Danny could not even drink water. His sister-in-law, Viorica, watched over him until about midnight. The next morning he was “raised” to the sixth floor of the neurosurgery clinic that was occupying four and a few annexes, and was represented by forty doctors and numerous nurses.

It was the end of June. The summer had fully started up, with its canicular days.

On the sixth floor, where he had been moved, the temperature was almost unbearable. Due to the lack of any saliva, Danny’s mouth was dry at all times. At regular intervals, either Viorica, or Cezar, his youngest son (both would take turns by Danny’s side) would slip him a teaspoon with water or tea. In his throat he had mucus gathered which only with strenuous effort would he be able to eliminate. Because of this, around five o’clock his breathing had become heavy.

One of the nurses was solicited. She, in turn, called Dr. Irina Ogrezeanu.

“Take him down to recovery!” decided she.

Immediately after, Danny was brought down to a pretty cool spot in the first room on the ground floor. His breathing was, however, not improving one bit. He felt that he was suffocating. At the same time, interminable hiccups started. He would try to sit up, as much as he would be permitted by his attachments to the bed, trying to breathe.

At a given moment, a girl in a white robe was moving around “preparing” Danny for his “night flight”.

“Sit still, mister Gheorghe!” (Later on he would find out that all patients were “Gheorghe”). “I’m going to stick a tube in your left nostril”.

Danny did not even get a chance to realize what she was talking about, when the girl had stuck the tube up his nostril.

He was choking, hiccupping, reaching for air, but the girl was not letting go until her job was done. Another caregiver that had helped calm Danny down, through physical force, leaned her ear over his chest, informing the so-called Gherghina:

“That’s it, it’s in!”

There followed a move of his bed, to a place near an air conditioning unit. Afterwards, complete abandonment.

Covered with a thin sheet, his feet hanging out of the covers, Danny started to get cold. Around him numerous nurses, caregivers would go by. But not one of them stopped to cover him up, nor did they answer to any of his persistent calls.

The hiccups intensified, each one of which would take up more of his breathing air.

Without any other preoccupation, Danny started counting them in his mind. He reached the thousandth and one around the clock that evening, when once again his bed was moved. Now he had been placed directly underneath the air conditioning unit. The coolness was becoming even harder to take.

“I’m cold, cover me with something”, he would solicit to no avail through his hiccups.

“Shut your mouth, mister Ghoerghe, stop wriggling so much!”

“I’m cold…” he tried to get their attention. No one budged.

Somewhere on the wall facing him, was hanging a clock. To which Danny would look all the time. As well as to the portrait of Jesus Christ, placed nearby.

Around midnight, he was once again moved, to an even cooler place. The transfusion bag above his head was now empty.

The girls that had moved him were chatting amongst themselves:

“Should we give him another dose?”

“Let him be. In four hours who knows what will happen with him…”

They all left, leaving behind a dim night-light.

Danny was fighting to survive. Against the cold and against the hiccups.

In place of the nurses there came by his bedside a group of elders. They had some generous long white beards. They were discussing in a whisper the specifics where they should bring Danny. After a while, the discussion turned into an argument. Some maintained that he should be left longer still.

“Are you coming with us?” asked one of them.

“Take me from here!”

“You have to do your time, you can’t just come in like this, directly”.

“Come in where?”

“To the place where we will take you”.

“Stop my hiccups.”

“Have patience!”

“I want warmth…”

“Very soon, you won’t need any covers…”

“You’re not telling me that you’re the ones with the scythes…”

“Something like that. But you have still to wait”

Danny’s jaws had become rigid from all the hiccupping. He had lost track of the hiccups a long time ago.

Finding himself between life and death, Danny had left this realm. The machinery to which he had been hooked up kept making noise for a while, after which, the zigzags on the monitor became straight lines. From outside his room, on the hallway on which she was walking, a nurse threw an eye inside, randomly, to glance at the monitor to which Danny was hooked up. She entered his room, approached him, after which she left slightly disoriented. She had been in that shift for a short while. Since she didn’t have enough experience, she ran up to Gherghina.

“The one you were calling mister Gheorghe last night seems to have given in. Come and have a look”.

“No way! Didn’t I tell you that he’d be gone by four?”

“What do we do? Are we going to sit around and stare at each other?”

“Well , what do you want us to do?”

“Go to him, convince ourselves. Maybe it was just my impression”.

“Leave him in God’s hands! Did you feel his hand to see if he has a pulse?”

“Aren’t the machines?… I’m going to him…”

“Go ahead! I’ll come after I ease myself in the restroom”

“Now you have to go pee? Hold it in until we find out what’s up with the dead guy”.

“Ah, girl, go or I’ll go on myself! I’ll catch up with you”.

The new nurse went in conforming to what her older colleague had ordered.

Reaching Danny’s bed, she searched for his pulse. There was no such thing. She tried to give him artificial breath. Her efforts were useless.

When Gherghina approached accompanied by another nurse, the “novice” was terribly saddened.

“Let’s go girls and try to resuscitate him! Maybe, maybe…”

The third nurse was in agreement.

“We have nothing to lose. Although I’m not really sure of any success”.

Only a few minutes had passed since Danny’s heart had stopped beating.

“For this type of situation, Dr. What’s-His-Name taught us, at our course to use a certain method”, stated the nurse that had alerted the others.

“To work!”

Her try was indeed a success. Slowly-slowly, Danny’s cardiac organ started up again. Blood splattered from his mouth, dirtying even Gherghina.

“Wipe off his mouth and leave him alone!” she told the others with authority.

   Excerpt from “The Confrontation”, Freamatul Publish House, Royal Palm Beach, Florida, 2005


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