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I was forced to grow up the day I had to sign the hospital forms for my father’s surgery

I stared at the form. It was asking me to sign my father's life away to the hospital. I was all alone.

“We need you to sign this consent form on all the pages. On the last page, write your name, relationship with the patient, and today’s date,” said the junior resident to me as the medical staff began wheeling my father towards the operation room.

It was December 2015 and my father had to go undergo a major surgery.

The news had been difficult on us as a family, but my father had held everyone strong. His positivity was the beacon of hope that had lifted our spirits. Today, however, he looked worried, and I needed someone to act as a support for the both of us.

The medical assistant handed me a pen and the consent form and left. I stood transfixed in the room, while my father looked at me, worried. “It’s nothing. Just some formalities,” I said.

Inside, I was knocked out by the weight that the forms carried. Until now, there had always been an adult to take care of such formalities. Today, it was just me and Dad. My mother was taking care of my siblings.

Towards the entrance of the preoperative evaluation room, I pressed my hand firmly onto dad’s, hoping to give both of us the much-needed courage. With shivering hands and a drying throat, I croaked, “It’s going to be fine.”

As he was taken inside, I took a look at the consent form dangling in my other hand, the contents of which scared me out of my wits.

The form was a detailed documentation of the surgical procedure that would be performed on my father, its complications, and unforeseen indications. In the event of an unlikely complication, I was asked to provide consent to the doctors to take ad hoc procedures.

The form basically asked me to sign off my father’s future in the next six hours into the doctor’s hands.

The last point in the document asked for my consent to authorize the medical team to go ahead and perform the operation on my father. I was expected to sign the form as an adult who understood what the following six hours of surgery would entail. I barely seemed to register anything.

My signature on the consent form was the stamp of approval needed for my father to undergo the surgery.

I read and re-read those pages, poring through each statement to see if I was missing anything. I was skeptical of signing it. Should I ask my mother to do it? Should I wait for my uncle to arrive? For a few minutes, I was searching for the adult in the room to sign that form.

Until I realized that the adult I was looking for, was me.

I was the daughter of the patient. The document was handed to a supervising adult, not to the child I was in my mind. 

In that momentary dilemma, I signed my name on the dotted line, sealing my transformation into the adult I was unsure of being all this time.

As I signed the form, I realized that there was no turning back. I could no longer protect myself from the realities that were part of my life. Responsibilities that were waiting for me to shoulder upon. Conversations that would now need my voice as an adult rather than a child.

Over the next hours, our family sat in the hospital’s waiting room in anticipation. Finally, when the doctors came out and called my father’s name, I went up to them. “I am Mr. Haider’s daughter,” I claimed. They looked at me and said, “The surgery went well. We need you to complete a few formalities.”

With a sigh of relief, I walked in with them.

This time, not just as a daughter to my dad, but as an adult responsible for taking care of him.