My eyes have adjusted. Faint streaks of light from the edges of my window illuminate the darkness of my room. I toss onto my side and my gaze drifts to the shadows on the wall. I make shapes out of them, like making shapes out of passing clouds.
As a person still learning to manage grief, I have to remind myself that perfection doesn’t exist in our loved ones either. We are all imperfect beings, but the best we can do is try, believe in ourselves and tell some stupid jokes along the way.
When I followed up our conversation by offering a hug, I felt the full release of her sorrow in our embrace. It was as if recognition of her heartbreak gave her permission to express her devastation and fear in a moment of sudden tragedy.
You were worried the year would be difficult, you didn’t know how to live months on end without seeing or hugging family and didn’t know how you would meet and talk to 230 people in your class (and no, you still haven’t, but at least you might know 70%).
I expect the attending to leave the room after ripping off her gloves and gown. Instead she grabs a clean towel and gently wipes the patient’s forehead with the soft tenderness of a mother. I decide that this is the kind of doctor I want to be.
In a time when we began medical school online during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, most of our preclinical medical education was lecture-based. This meant my experiences at the free health clinics affiliated with our institution were more valuable than ever in introducing me to patient care.
Upon reflection, my actions and feelings in caring for this patient reveal how truly afraid I was to be wrong; not necessarily about the diagnosis, but rather about whether the patient would be okay. Maybe coming in daily and opening her chart for good news was just me hoping that my initial impression was still right instead of coming to terms with the fact I was very wrong.
On a search for / assurance, / I was sat across / the Intrepid
Those voluble cells which / lay softly atop the glass slide / compose the truth, compose the / cabalistic dialect of you and I
I hope my classmates, communities, and I all dance far more often with health than sickness. I pray that soon the last hospital bed holds the last patient with COVID. I hope justice and truth prevail. I hope we hold onto what we carry: the love of friends and family, a resilience tried and true, bravery unbridled and faith that we will persevere among the challenges life affords. I hope that after long days of caring for others, we care for ourselves and call a friend, a loved one, a therapist — and remember how far we’ve come. We have been patients, and we will be patients, even as we care for patients.