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“Stay Safe and Well”

Mask, sanitizer, anxiety,
New norms of society.
“Stay safe and well” recite email signatures.
Engaging strangers with kind eyes rather than tender faces,
Air hugs rather than warm embraces,
Family Zoom calls rather than face-to-face visits.

We are the epicenter of the world’s pandemic.
Thousands are testing positive,
Each day more and more.
Voiceless, faceless,
More are taken to the emergency room,
More are transferred to the ICU,
More never to return.

Death in the time of COVID is like no other,
A disappearance act:
One day here, next day gone.
No communal grievance period.
No crowding of the hospital room.
No asking for ‘just a few more minutes’ of visitation time.
Video calls with sedated beings.

Begging for more information from the nurses and doctors,
Yet misunderstanding of the messages being delivered.
BUN/Cr, LFTs, O2 Sat, lymphopenia — might as well be speaking a foreign language.

Until the call:
“I’m sorry…” it starts.
Not much else is clear.
“Extubate and make them comfortable” it ends.
It’s done.

No time for grieving with others.
It might get you too.
No time for mass family gatherings to celebrate life.
It might get you too.
No time for warm embraces of condolence.
It might get you too.

We are amidst “unprecedented times.”
The power of a hug and a tear-soaked shirt, no longer an option.
The support of a handhold while having a difficult conversation, no longer an option.

We struggle to make it through.
We reveal newfound resilience.
We evolve our relationships to meet the demands of the time.

Remembering the lives that have been taken too soon, “stay safe and well.”
Ojalá que te vaya con seguridad y salud.
(I hope you go with safety and health.)

Para mi familia:
La última visita diciéndose que les quiero con todo mi corazón ya no es una opción.
Las lágrimas de la familia pasán en casa en vez del hospital a sus lados.
Les extrañaré siempre.
Sus voces, sus canciones, sus amores por la vida.
Buenos viajes mis angelitos.

(For my family:
The last visit saying I love you with all my heart is not an option.
The tears of the family take place in the home instead of at the hospital by your side.
I will miss you both always.
Your voices, your songs, your love for life.
Safe travels my angels.)

Image credit: A zoom retirement (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Damien Walmsley

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

Samantha M Rodriguez Samantha M Rodriguez (8 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine

Samantha is a fourth-year medical student at Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine in Miami, Florida class of 2022. In 2016, she graduated from Florida International University with a Bachelor of Science in Biology. She enjoys yoga, going to the beach, and reading in her free time. After graduating medical school, Samantha plans to pursue a career in Pediatrics.