Category: Medicine

A Search Within.

How do I know
the pill won’t seem
bitter to your tongue
through your teeth?

How do I wear
a once white coat
stained with tears
of memories?

How do I compel
my pen to write
scripts to fight
a dimming light?

How do I know
 which waters will flow
to unearth the strength
within me?

How do I persuade
a heart to let go
when it’s my hand
that sets you free?

How do I ensure
my smile won’t be
one of the last
that you’ll see?

How do I force
my ears to hear
a song I fear
of dusk so near?

How do I know
which waters will come
to enshroud the doubts
within me?


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A Memory of Ground Beef.

Once when I was on a specialized heart failure service, I took care of a teenage boy. He had a form of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy and had a big heart…in, obviously, more ways than one.

He loved baseball, pumpkin pie, and horses. His family owned a farm, so before he got sick, he would often go horseback riding. He also loved to draw.

We—a team of five physicians—took care of him for a month while he was waiting for a heart transplant. He liked us. We liked him. So he drew us as well.

I thought he was clever. He thought I was even more so. All because he liked my joke:

“What do you call a cow with no legs?”

“Ground beef.”

That was it. He was just a great kid, trying his best to live the life given to him.

I found out recently that he passed away. And today I found the drawing he gave me. And I wept.

It used to be, that at the end of our visits, we would both say to each other, “Ground beef!” with a wink. It perplexed everyone else, but we knew exactly what we were talking about.

So here’s to you, dear buddy…

Ground beef 😉

A Blessed Christmas Tragedy.

A bustling hospital. An unexpected arrival. A frigid Christmas Eve.

I was saying goodbye to another patient when fate collided us.

“I’m sorry Father,” I heard your son say, “you can no longer live with us, but here is a nice doctor who will find you a home. Merry Christmas, Dad.”

Pretending not to notice your son’s exasperation as you pleaded for him to stay, I choked down the anguish of my own awareness and proceeded to examine you. 

Bound to the prison of your seat—scared, bewildered, frail—you looked so lost. You asked why, what you did wrong, where your son had gone, not fully comprehending the chaos surrounding. A deep sigh escaped pursed lips as I searched within for an answer that would never come. Taking your hands, contorted by disease, I gazed into eyes dulled by years gone by—their hope fading beneath a glimmer of fear of an iniquitous present and an unpromised future–and I made you a promise I wondered if I myself could keep. 

“It’s going to be okay…you’ll see.” 

But hours pass, and it was not okay—you couldn’t sleep, you wouldn’t eat, and the only sound I heard as I passed the door of your half-vacant room was the resonance of muffled tears.

Behind a mask, I also let myself weep.

*    *    *

Soon the day ended. I entered your room, prepared to make my final rounds. But instead of a bid goodbye, what escaped was an exclamation of the first words that came to my mind.

“Sir, I think we should have a party!”

And that was what we did.

A 90-year-old veteran. A 30-year-old internist. A 20-year-old nurse.

Gathered around your bed, over reconstituted cocoa, you shared with us your history, your joys, your life’s adventures. Over paper cups of chicken broth, I told you my story. As the muted treble of holiday cheer dripped through the bedside radio, together we heralded in, with bittersweetness, the arrival of Christmas Day.

You then took my hand.

As I started to apologize for the late hour, you stopped me. Eyes still glimmering, I hear you laugh, and I believe I finally catch a glimpse of what was the real you.

“Thank you for a blessed Christmas,” you said.

Yes.

A blessed one, indeed.

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