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Heart Failure

he sits on the edge of the bed, forlorn —
eyes squeezed shut, back hunched over.
the veins snaking up his arms seem
translucent as he clenches the bed rail
in a death grip.
he glances up at us as we file in
and encircle his bed.
the electric blue of his eyes seems
more piercing today
than ever before.
the attending asks him how he’s been,
the obviousness of the answer
almost comical.
we listen to his heart, as if
it could reveal something new.
he tells us his legs have been
restless beyond measure.
his voice, chiseled with
notes of agony, seems to
plead with us
to heal him.
the intern runs his hands
down the lengths of his gray-mottled legs.
he leans towards the touch, as if
the connection
could heal. in that brief moment,
there is a spark of life
in those cold blue eyes.
the intern removes his hands and promises medication,
the salve for it all.

more importantly, we must get to our plan.
all we can do is rehash
his stalling progress,
tell him once more that his heart
continues to fail him.
he listens, silent, solemn.
i want to place my hands in his,
run them over the cool, clammy skin.
i cannot calm the storm ravaging his body, but perhaps
i could bring some respite to the swells
in his mind.
but i am just the medical student, an entrant
into the esoteric practice of medicine.
after rounds we run the list —
we add yet another pill,
convincing ourselves that it is only
the heart that has failed.
we never have.

Image credit: “Pills” (CC BY 2.0) by 0kk3

Poetry Thursdays is an initiative that highlights poems by medical students. If you are interested in contributing or would like to learn more, please contact our editors.

Mili Dave Mili Dave (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

UNC School of Medicine

Mili is a third-year medical student at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine in Chapel Hill, NC class of 2026. In 2022, she graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts in biology and chemistry. She enjoys reading thriller novels, writing, and biking in her free time. After graduating medical school, Mili would like to pursue a career in critical care medicine.