The Most Improbable Story Ever Told
More than anything, Simon remembers the pain. The pain in his belly that felt like someone had punched a hole in his gut, reached inside, and started to disembowel him. After that—after the morphine that the local hospital administered—everything began to blur together. He remembers the doctors in the Gol hospital saying he needed to go to Oslo; he remembers the airlift, the helo ride over the majestic peaks of the Kjølen. He remembers briefly gaining consciousness during a CT scan before darkness descended again. And he remembers waking up one last time—this time lying supine on an operating table, with a masked face looming over him—before darkness, once again, enveloped him.
For the surgeon looking down on this broken body, the boy’s limbs splayed out like Jesus’ on the cross, IVs nestled in the crook of each arm, desperately trying to replace many liters of lost blood . . . that surgeon saw one moment, one moment to save the young man’s life. During hours of surgery, the doctor feverishly labored to save Simon, ultimately removing half of his large intestine. When reached by e-mail several years later, the surgeon would say that only around 10 percent of patients in Simon’s condition would survive such trauma. Did Simon survive because the Oslo hospital happened to be hosting a visiting surgeon who specialized in colonic surgery? Was it luck? A miracle? The surgeon, uncharacteristically modest for someone of such stature, demurs. I was doing my job, he says.