From the Wards
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“Nurse! Nurse! Please help me! Can someone please help me?” 

For several minutes, her cries echoed through the halls. Something felt wrong. I brought her cries to the attention of the Charge Nurse. 

“Oh Michael, don’t worry about her, she’s delirious.” 

“Really? She seems like she needs some help.” I replied. 

Boldly, I walked into the patient’s room. In front of me was Lucy, an elderly frail woman with a very disfigured face. 

She looked at me, smiled, and asked me to help her move the furniture around. I did what she requested. I moved the table and chair closer to her bed.  As I poured out some water for her, she expressed her gratitude in responding to her cries for help. She smiled again. Her skin glistened from the sunlight through the window. She looked comfortable, satisfied. I froze. I looked at her.

I could see the twinkle in her eyes, eyes that appeared to have experienced life’s joy and sadness. I took a seat in the chair and asked her to tell me her story. 

Her story exploded from deep within her. She described her previous job as a floor manager at Macy’s, episodes of her college experience, her husband passing away from prostate cancer, her children abandoning her. It was all going so fast. Her whole life was gushing out of her. I soaked it all in like a sponge.

I could feel the warmth from all the love she experienced over the decades, followed by a wave of chills buried within the sadness of her loneliness. It was cathartic for her, all those years bottled up in those twinkling eyes were finally liberated. I embraced it all. She told me her name. Her name was Lucy. 

Only later, after my encounter, it dawned upon me that Lucy was one of many in this mortal world. She was the face of loneliness. Her age had given her a gift of knowledge that transcended a tangible objective intelligence. She breathed to others – through the grace of her words in her stories– life; a century, packaged, delivered, and experienced by the ears of the listener in minutes.  

As I left her room, I realized that sometimes, what people need most is simply to be heard. Lucy had shared a piece of her soul with me, and in return, I had given her the gift of listening. In that moment, I understood that being present for someone, truly present, can make all the difference in the world. Lucy’s story would stay with me forever, a reminder of the power of human connection and the importance of compassion.

Bench” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by mrhayata

Michael James (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

CUNY School of Medicine

Michael is a medical student at the Sophie Davis/CUNY School of Medicine in New York City, a seven-year combined BS/MD program in New York City, Class of 2026. In 2022, he graduated from the City College of New York with a Bachelor's of Science in biomedical sciences. He enjoys playing billiards and the classical guitar in his free time. After graduating medical school, Michael is interested in a career in vascular or cerebrovascular surgery. His research interests include regenerative medicine, medical education and medical technology.