What Might Have Been

Nana Dadzie Ghansah
4 min readDec 10, 2021

By Nana Dadzie Ghansah

I was securing the arterial line I had just placed in her left radial artery when I heard her singing quietly under her breathe. It piqued my interest, so I listened closer. She was singing along with the song playing on the station we had playing in the operating room.

I looked at her emaciated face half-covered by a mask and stated, “You must love that song.”

“I love those old songs. They remind me of growing up”, she replied.

The answer made me conscious of my age. I was in medical school when the song was released. She was six.

“What kind of music do you like?” I asked her.

“Country, classic rock, rap, and old gospel… all good music really”, she replied.

I watched as she answered. Her eyes were suddenly dancing. That hungry look was gone.

She went on: “Music speaks to everyone. It is a language everyone understands.”

I could swear I saw her smile under that mask.

I decided to explore further.

I asked her whether she had kids. She had three and a grandchild with another on the way. The joy in her voice was unmistakable.

“What did you want to be once upon a time?” I asked.

“I wanted to help people who were on drugs,” she said.

That surprised me.

You see, the patient I was having a conversation with was a drug addict. She had a history of abusing several drugs — intravenous, intranasal, orally. The drugs had marked her being and left all the signs drugs tend to leave behind in their utter devastation of addicts — the needle tracks, bad teeth, sores, horrible hair, infections, and that cold, hungry look.

And yet, once upon a time, she wanted to become a social worker who worked with addicts.

On further questioning, I found out she had dropped out of high school, never getting her GED. There was hardly any family support. The slide into addiction killed that dream she had to help addicts.

As we conversed, I caught a glimpse of her dreams and aspirations. I sensed what may have been in…

Nana Dadzie Ghansah

An anesthesiologist, photographer, writer, and poet. He lives and works in Lexington, Kentucky.