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Trauma Shift

6 a.m.: Outside the Emergency Department

I imagine her mother
Squeezing daughter’s limp hand
Silent tears
Beeping monitors in the room next door
I step outside
The warmth is eerie
The yellow caution tape gone
The sunshine mocking:
That was a bad dream
But to the left —
blood on the sidewalk

1 a.m.: General Surgery Resident Lounge

I am safe but
There is an active shooter here
— Text to my parents
I was in OR 4

12 a.m.: Operating Room

“There’s someone with a gun downstairs”
“Is everyone okay?”
“I don’t know”
Raising our eyes
A flicker of acknowledgement
Keep suctioning
Cutting sutures
Blood underneath our fingertips
The room feels too cold
“OR 2 didn’t make it”
“OR 3 to ICU”

10 p.m.: Trauma Bay

Teenage girl
The room still, monitor quiet
Gunshot “probably hit her aorta”
Teenage boy
Seizing, my hands holding his tense calf
Gunshot “through his mastoid”
The repetitive irony
Paring down gun culture
To trivial death
After bullet
After bullet
This time, invisible
Grazing my shoulder, my ear, my thigh —
We are only putting on bandaids, and
Are their families okay? and
Is it safe to walk outside?

5 p.m.: Outside the Emergency Department

Night shift ritual:
Caffeine surge
Dark chocolate
Here I am for my 24-hour shift!
(Maybe that was too much caffeine)
Reviewing screenshots of the Glasgow Coma Scale
Nervous — do I remember enough?
Will I be helpful?

Image credit: Ambulance! (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Isaías Campbell

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

Cally Braun Cally Braun (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Emory University School of Medicine

Cally is a fourth-year medical student at the Emory University School of Medicine who is applying into Ob/Gyn in the 2022-2023 cycle. She graduated from Dartmouth College in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology. Her interests include climate change and environmental health, the relationship between language and culture, and reproductive justice.