They did not want to disclose that I was dying. Out of respect for my family’s wishes, my cultural values and ultimately myself. But they forgot to respect my right to know, my right to choose which way to go, my right to see tomorrow and the fading of the sunset glow.
“There’s a great neuro exam in room 5147,” my resident said as I dropped my bag in the call room. “Why don’t you go check it out?” I clutched my reflex hammer in one hand and googled the components of a neuro exam with the other as I headed towards the stairwell.
Gloves first, then scalpel blades gathered, / instructor books and an atlas. / What yearning and churning my mind feels, / unsure what learning to expect.
A hospital bed rolled in. It was Marvin. His last walk. On rounds we would say, “Twenty-two-year-old with gunshot wound to the head. Waiting for organ donation.”
After hours of struggle, noise, / knife and clamp and lung flapping wetly / like a broken bird wing in an open chest, / there is this part, the dismantling.
“We kept him alive to let his family say goodbye, / and sometimes that’s the biggest victory.”
Telemedicine should never replace in-person care, especially in the patient-centric hospice environment, but when used appropriately it can provide benefits not found in any other care environment.
“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.
You tell me you’d like to be an engineer one day. You hesitate after the words “one day,” like you’re reconsidering the phrase. I want to tell you not to, but I can’t find the words.
Like an early Sunday morning in New York City or a football stadium the night before a game, it is a hospital on a holiday weekend. This is my first experience of how quickly peace can burst into bedlam in medicine.
The scent of illness, stifling and spoiled / Masked by antiseptics.
I had not yet guided a ‘goals of care’ discussion. This is the discussion that entails understanding a patient’s wishes regarding end of life care, and it is often in the context of determining what advanced medical interventions the patient might want. That day, my short white coat felt shorter, like it was yelling out to everyone I encountered that I had no idea what I was doing.