Today, my grandparents are older than Saul was when distanced from his family. Now during the coronavirus pandemic, they too are isolated. This time it’s not because they are the fomites, but because I might be. Those big enveloping hugs that grandma lives for and kisses from grandpa will likely become a thing of the past.
Your body lay on the table, wrapped in shrouds / while robed students gathered around, / Your body lay on the table, skin leathery and strong, / I imagined what stories it bore, what paths it traveled along.
“Time of death: 12:26 p.m.” Hearing those words on the first day of my Intensive Care Unit (ICU) rotation was surreal when just a few hours ago we were discussing the patient’s status during rounds.
What happened to you? / I don’t remember / Did it hurt? / Yes boy, oh yes
Hearts that beat, / Turn into hearts that don’t.
I had felt strange during the week leading up to the last ultrasound. Pregnancy is a roller coaster of sensations, but that week had been off a little. I barely noticed the ultrasound tech rubbing the cold, blue gel on my massive belly. I wanted to hear that sound: that quiet, pulsing sound of my baby racing to be born.
Soon, we were jolted to attention by an overhead announcement, “Attention, code blue. Six south. Attention. Code blue. Six south.”
It can be difficult to fully appreciate the events that transpire on a busy transplant surgery service, and as a fledgling third year student on my first rotation, I’d often find myself in stimulus overload — like a five year old who stops to look at every flower on a walk with their parents.
Whenever I go to the hospital, I wear my grandpa’s socks. They looked distinguished on an older man, but a little childish on a me, a 25-year-old medical student. I’m okay with that. Feeling like an overdressed kid on Easter helps to balance the overwhelming pressure of becoming a physician.
An indulgent gasp / grasps the molded corners / dry tongue to chipping paint / searching for a word to say
We huddled around in a circle. Some rubbing our necks, some touching our wrists, and some listening with tears streaming down our faces. It was a room of physicians and physicians-in-training, listening as one resident shared her story of watching her patient pass away when she ran a code for the first time. At the conclusion of her story, physicians and students approached the resident with hugs and advice.
“Ms. Mary is very excited to spend time with you,” the nurse said on my first day of hospice volunteering. From behind the nurse’s shoulder, I saw Ms. Mary rolling her power chair toward us, a toothless grin on her face. She looked up at me, her nasal cannula hissing with oxygen, and greeted me with her hoarse voice. I turned around to see that the nurse had dashed away, and left me alone to take care of Ms. Mary, who had heart failure, COPD, chronic pain and many other medical conditions.