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A Condition of the Heart


It’s 1 a.m., everyone’s running on three cups of coffee
When a man stumbles through the entrance
And I could hear whispers of
It’s him, the homeless man, back in the ER again

And you can tell he’s unwanted
As they start to lament
That’s the third time this week
This ‘gomer’ has come

Is this what long hours and burnout do
Even to the best of physicians
A diminishing sense of compassion

Examining the patient’s body, pressing my stethoscope,
Listening to his heart
Beat abnormally

We talk for a bit,
About the pain in his chest,
His dizziness and shortness of breath

All his symptoms point to
A condition of the heart
The residents rattle off potential diagnoses
Such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

The man says he wanders the streets at night,
Nowhere to go, nowhere to stay
No friends or family

And for a moment,
I listen

The curtain is pulled
The doctors still think he’s
Pretending about the pain in his chest
So they send him away

What can I do? What do I say?

I desperately want to tell them
To take a moment and
Listen

Perhaps we, too, should take a look at the
Condition of our hearts


This past month we have been learning about the heart. As I study cardiology, I have been wrestling with my own heart, too. Burnout is real, especially in the ER, and feelings of compassion can dwindle. But I hope to continually check my heart and strive to approach every patient with a sense of humanism and respect.

Anna Delamerced Anna Delamerced (10 Posts)

Writer-in-Training

Warren Alpert Medical School


Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Anna Delamerced is a 2nd-year medical student at Brown University, with a background in Public Health and creative writing. As she continues on this journey, she is grateful to learn from teachers and fellow classmates. If you have a story to share, she'd love to hear from you.