A canvas / Of delicately oiled / Skin, stretched taut
Was it a fall? Did I miss the last step? These things I cannot recall / Hidden from sight, the blood crept from one lone vessel and began to compress / Nice to meet you, one medical student said, as he unzipped my sheath
“That’s rubbish.” My new friend — I’ll call her Sylvia — lay supine on her bed, staring bleary-eyed at the ceiling. White bedsheets swathed her long, gaunt limbs, and her sickly pallor startled me.
Hepatic failure claimed him mentally, / And colored yellow both his eyes so wide / As too his being stained corporally.
The many tables corral him, / All the people surround him, / A trained doctor he is not, / Giving up, he hasn’t thought.
Before long, I will become, to my patients, a keeper of time. With my long white coat will come the privilege of speaking to a patient who is learning what it means to have limited time left.
Dan and I mimicked ducklings as we followed our senior resident, Tassia, single file down the stairs on our way back to the resident room. As we neared the bottom, we crossed paths with another medicine resident leading two medical students playing the same roles as Dan and I.
“I used to be an elementary school art teacher in San Francisco.” The more he smiled and the more he spoke, the larger the lump grew in my throat. He wore a grayed t-shirt that matched his unkempt black beard.
I found them for you. / Your blonde little girls who grew into women / Then grew apart from you. / I found them.
To physicians, hospice frequently symbolizes defeat. Referring a patient to hospice care can feel like admitting that disease has defeated years of training. In medical school, we are trained that the role of the doctor is to fight the disease and find the cure.
At 7:21 p.m., I arrive at the hospital for the first overnight shift of my medical career. It’s not a great start — the bus was late, and I didn’t sleep nearly enough this afternoon in preparation for the night ahead.
Tears hold onto the ledges of her eyes. As the physician and I approach, a quivering begins. It emerges at the jaw, a flutter running across her lips, only to drop onto her shoulders and envelop her hands.