Immersed in his work, Dr. Kang Euntae sat alone in his office, surrounded by a sea of papers that reflected in his glasses as the golden rays of the setting sun showered the room in a warm embrace. The day's work had ended for most, but Euntae remained immersed in his task, undisturbed by the absence of colleagues. His serious concentration garnered occasional stares from passersby, their curiosity stirred by his solitary determination.
As Euntae delved deeper into his work, a woman entered the office with a playful yet curious tone. "What's keeping you here so late, Euntae? Isn't today your day off?"
Euntae briefly moved his gaze from the paper he held, meeting the woman's eyes. Determination colored his voice as he replied, "There's something I'm trying to figure out," before his concentration returned to the document in his hands.
The woman's countenance eased as she leaned closer to Euntae, her interest stirred by the paper attracting his attention. A startling insight poured over her, converting her humorous tone into seriousness. "We admitted this patient six months ago," she started, her voice now showing astonishment. "The injuries were a broken ribcage and fractured legs."
Euntae nodded, confirming her observation, as he glanced briefly at the table, reaching for a new set of papers. "That's right," he confirmed, his voice infused with urgency. "But here's the thing. His head MRI, EEG, and other tests all came back normal. There shouldn't be any reason for him to remain in a coma. It just doesn't make sense."
The woman's eyes widened as she accepted the stack of paperwork presented to her. She read over the medical records, her gaze jumping from page to page, searching for clues or anomalies to shed light on the complex situation. "You're right," she answered, her voice tinted with resentment. "Everything appears to be normal. If I didn't know better, I'd think this patient is simply faking his condition."
The woman's disbelief was evident, her eyes feverishly searching for solutions within the sea of documents. This was an extraordinarily unique and confusing case, unlike anything she had experienced throughout her tenure as a doctor. Frustration and resignation combined as she set the documents down on the table, her hands resting on the surface with a sensation of defeat.
"This case is incredibly frustrating," she said, her voice laced with annoyance and intrigue. "But if you're diving into it now, is something happening that we should know about?"
Euntae extended his hand towards the uppermost pile of papers, retrieving a document he had received that morning. He passed it over to his colleague, anticipation lingering in the air. The woman groaned, recognizing that yet another puzzling piece of information was coming to challenge her brainpower. As she went through the pages, though, she was less surprised than she had imagined.
"From what I can see, there's nothing particularly unusual here. The brain activity appears to be consistent with someone in a coma," The woman said, her tone puzzling.
Euntae nodded, confirming her observation. "Yes, that's true. However, take a look at this," he added, grabbing his computer mouse and starting a video playback on his laptop. The screen revealed a recording of a patient looking around in his hospital bed, writhing in anguish, before falling back into a deep slumber.
The woman's eyes widened as she watched the footage unfold. It was a revelation that defied conventional expectations. "That's extraordinary," she muttered, her voice filled with astonishment and concern. "The patient was clearly awake and exhibiting signs of pain, yet the brain activity here suggests he should remain unresponsive. This is completely unprecedented."
The couple exchanged glances, their minds scrambling to fathom the significance of this unexpected revelation. It challenged the fundamental base of their understanding, contradicting medical standards and posing a puzzling conundrum. "Have you been in touch with the patient's guardian?" the woman queried, her voice laced with anxiety.
Euntae nodded, a sense of relief pouring through him. "Yes, she's on her way to the office as we speak. Would you like to join us?" He flashed an expectant glance at his colleague, hoping she would join him in this vital moment.
The woman groaned, weariness visible in her features. "No, I think I'll pass. Just reading through these papers has given me enough of a headache. Go ahead and do what you need to do. I'll catch up with you tomorrow," she answered, turning away from the doctor as she exited the room.
A few hours earlier.
Under the scorching August heat, a woman's forehead glistened with sweat as she walked swiftly and effectively through the packed restaurant. Unfazed by the discomfort, she focused on serving customers and delivering plates of food with unshakable dedication. Her face shone with a bright smile, hiding the exhaustion in her body. With its ability to nurture and satisfy hungry customers, this job gave her a kind of maternal comfort she couldn't entirely reproduce for her son.
Observing her from a distance, the manager's eyes carried empathy and gratitude. Though silent, her gaze showed deep admiration for the woman who continuously went above and beyond her duties, beyond the expectations of her meager wage.
"Mrs. Han," the manager gently called out, her voice tinged with anxiety. "You should take a break. Let others handle the work for now."
"It's fine, Madam Kim," Mrs. Han said, her face emitting a pleasant smile as her hands cleared the tables, gathering the dirty dishes left behind.
"You're such a dedicated soul. But look at yourself. I won't tolerate you fainting from exhaustion. What would that make me as your employer?" Madam Kim urged, her hands reaching out to firmly guide Mrs. Han away from the noisy restaurant.
Unwillingly, Mrs. Han allowed herself to be escorted away, her hands reluctantly releasing the dishes. She followed Madam Kim, her exhaustion growing more apparent with each step. The weight of the day's labor landed on her shoulders, reminding her of its toll on her body.
Madam Kim took Mrs. Han to a quiet section of the establishment, away from the hectic environment. The air in this secluded space felt cooler, affording momentary relief from the oppressive heat. She led Mrs. Han into a chair, asking her to sit and rest.
"You've been working tirelessly, Mrs. Han," Madam Kim noted, her voice carrying a tint of concern. "It's essential to take care of yourself. You're more than just an employee to us."
Mrs. Han's weary eyes met Madam Kim's gaze, gratitude shining through the fatigue. "Thank you, Madam Kim," she muttered, her voice tinted with pleasure. "I sometimes forget to slow down. But I love this job and want to provide our customers the best service."
Madam Kim nodded, a sweet grin crossing her lips. "Your dedication is admirable, but remember that your health is just as important, Mrs. Han."
With those words, Madam Kim left Mrs. Han to rest, promising to check on her later. As the restaurant hummed with activity, Mrs. Han closed her eyes, allowing herself a few seconds of rest. She took long breaths, letting the exhaustion slowly drain from her body.
In the tranquility of that little corner, a feeling of warmth filled Mrs. Han. The camaraderie she felt with her coworkers and the support she received from Madam Kim reminded her that she was not alone in her endeavors. The restaurant was more than a simple workplace; it was a community where everyone cared for one another.
After a brief period of rest, Mrs. Han felt invigorated. She fixed herself up and vowed to return to her job, ready to tackle the challenges that awaited her.
Yet Mrs. Han's heart plummeted as she heard the familiar ringtone, marking an impending call. Her mood turned grim as she anticipated the nature of the ring. Instinctively, she knew it was the loansharks, the relentless individuals she had been trying to avoid. Dealing with them had proven to be a constant source of stress, and the mere sound of her phone ringing filled her with dread.
Reluctantly, Mrs. Han grabbed her phone, her fingers trembling slightly as she prepared to face the swearing and mockery awaiting her. However, to her astonishment, the caller displayed on the screen was unexpected. The name that appeared was Doctor Kang, the physician she had entrusted with her son's well-being. A mix of excitement and dread flooded over her, leaving her wondering why the doctor would be calling her now.
With a hesitant push of a button, Mrs. Han answered the call, her voice laced with caution. "Hello?" she spoke, the exhaustion still evident in her tone.
"Hello, Mrs. Han. It's me, Doctor Kang," the voice on the other end of the line said, his words conveying a tinge of nervousness.
A torrent of emotions rushed through Mrs. Han's mind, her heart thumping heavily. Her thoughts immediately turned to her son, Cheol, dreading the worst.
"Did something..." Before Mrs. Kim could convey her deepest concerns, Doctor Kang interjected, shutting her off.
"No, ma'am, it's not what you think," he reassured her, his voice filled with seriousness and sympathy. "This is good news, at least. It would be better if you came to the hospital in person. That way, I can explain the situation more clearly."
The unexpected call from Doctor Kang had lit a flicker of optimism within her. With a determined nod, she summoned the strength to respond. "I'll be there as soon as possible," she said, her voice firm. "Please tell me what's happening with Cheol."
As she ended the call, Mrs. Han felt a fresh sense of purpose. The weariness that had afflicted her previously seemed to dissolve into the background as she focused on the urgency of the situation. She swiftly made her way towards the exit, and inside the noisy restaurant, Madam Kim observed Mrs. Han's sudden shift in demeanor; her face was excited. "Did something good happen, Mrs. Han?" she said, her voice laced with surprise.
Mrs. Han froze instantly, her eyes catching Madam Kim's gaze. "I received a call from Doctor Kang," she explained, her voice shaking slightly with mixed emotions. "He wants me to come to the hospital. There's something he needs to tell me about Cheol."
Madam Kim's countenance softened the sympathetic understanding in her eyes. She laid a consoling hand on Mrs. Han's shoulder, offering words of support. "Go, Mrs. Han. Don't worry about the restaurant. We will manage. Your son needs you."
Mrs. Han bowed gratefully, her heart overflowing with appreciation for the compassion and support she had gotten from Madam Kim and her colleagues. She left the restaurant and embarked on her journey to the hospital, ready to face whatever awaited her.
Thoughts of her kid, Cheol, occupied her mind, overwhelming her with a blend of hope and anxiety. The journey felt longer than usual, with every passing moment dragging out with torturous slowness.
Finally arriving, Mrs. Han entered the hospital with resolute steps. She approached the reception desk, her voice laced with desperation as she explained the purpose of her visit. The staff directed her to Doctor Kang's office, and with each stride down the corridor, her heart raced harder, bracing herself for the unknown.
She reached Dr. Kang's office and knocked on the door, her hand quivering slightly. The door swung open, exposing the physician standing before her, his face carved with both fatigue and determination. Their eyes locked, and a mutual understanding flowed between them at that moment.
"Please, have a seat," Doctor Kang encouraged, his voice filled with sympathy and a sense of urgency. "We have much to discuss."
Mrs. Han sat, her eyes fixated on Doctor Kang, anticipating his remarks. The room itself radiated a sense of professionalism, with medical certificates covering the walls and the subtle aroma of antiseptic.
"I'm grateful that you came," Dr. Kang said, his voice reflecting professionalism. "I have news about your son, Cheol."
Mrs. Han leaned forward, her hands clutched together in anticipation. "Please, tell me," she pleaded, her voice filled with worry and hope.
A flash of optimism shone in Dr. Kang's eyes. "Earlier today, a remarkable event occurred," he stated, his voice tinted with enthusiasm. "Cheol woke up from his coma and looked around."
Mrs. Han gasped, her heart soaring with excitement and relief. Tears welled up in her eyes as she grasped the severity of the news. "He woke up? My Cheol woke up?" she screamed, her voice excitedly shaking.
Doctor Kang nodded, a warm smile lighting his lips. "Yes, it's an extraordinary development," he confirmed. "However, Cheol began showing signs of pain shortly after waking up. We believe his condition might be more complex than we initially thought."
Mrs. Han's face changed from one of joy to one of concern as her heart constricted with anxiety. "What happened next?" she inquired, her voice filled with anticipation and horror.
Doctor Kang's demeanor turned grim. "Cheol's pain intensified, and he fell unconscious once again," he explained, his voice overflowing with empathy. "We are doing everything we can to understand the cause of his pain and find a way to help him."
A surge of emotions washed over Mrs. Han, her hope tempered by the reality of the hardships that lay ahead. She grasped her chest, her love for her son merging with a sensation of helplessness. "Please, Doctor Kang, do everything you can to save my son," she urged, her voice filled with a mother's unflinching devotion.
Just as Doctor Kang and Mrs. Han were absorbed in their conversation, the office door burst open, and a nurse came racing in, her face flushed with excitement. "Doctor Kang, I have important news!" she cried, breathless.
Startled, Doctor Kang and Mrs. Han turned their attention to the nurse, their eyes wide with anticipation. "What is it? What happened?" Mrs. Han inquired, her voice laced with optimism and fear.
The nurse took a moment to collect her breath before speaking. "The patient... he regained consciousness once again!" she said, her words carrying a mix of delight and desperation. "He woke up just a few moments ago!"