You took your life.
I’m sorry I was only
fifteen feet away.
The doctors were only fifteen feet away.
You didn’t know this.
But I spent days and nights
next door to where you decided
to end your life. Where the doctors
gather, pondering over differentials…
treatments…dissecting our every move
to ensure that we are doing the
right thing for you.
The right thing…
If I had known you,
I would have fought for you.
I know you weren’t my patient;
I know we had never even met.
I am just the person who found
you. Who pronounced you.
You were already cold,
but still, I placed the
your chest and
I didn’t hear anything.
Did you hear me as
I wept for you?
you were suffering.
I’m sorry you felt
as if you had
no way out.
I’m sorry I couldn’t do more.
This is a reflection over an event that happened during residency.
An event I still think about at times.
A lingering guilt.
“I could prescribe any of a dozen antibiotics to cure
endocarditis, or even a thrombolytic agent
to stave off a heart attack; but what I
yearned for was the elixir of poetry,
which could heal the otherwise
untreatable condition of
my broken heart.”
This quote, by poet and physician Rafael Campo*,
beautifully captures the essence of the union
between the arts…and the art of medicine.
Therefore, today I will let him speak for me.
This is from his poem What the Body Told:
“To somewhere distant in my heart, they cry.
I look inside their other-person’s mouths
And see the wet interior of souls.
It’s warm and red in there–like love, with teeth.
I’ve studied medicine until I cried.”
*Rafael Campo is an internal medicine physician and poet currently on faculty at Harvard.
• • •
A few bloggers I would like to ask to share a quote or two:
Rules of the Quote Challenge:
1-Post on three consecutive days.
2-You can pick one or three quotes per day.
3-Challenge three different bloggers per day.
She stands facing a closed door.
As her gaze converges onto
enameled surface, she notes its
texture- the evenness a comfort to
a moment of hesitation within.
Smooth and finished–flowing
imprints mapping the course of
fine fibers swept over timber.
She makes a move to knock,
but her hand pauses,
and for a moment she wonders
whether you will find her pleasant.
Whether she will be worthy of your trust.
Whether you will believe in her.
Because she is flawed.
Like veneer upon wooden door, she
is but a polished version of herself.
As she again surveys its exterior,
she is let in upon a different truth–
that from underneath the surface
the grain peeks through, coarse
and jagged, its valleys exposed,
blemish revealed, age betrayed.
It is but fresh lacquer upon a
damaged interior, eroded and
frayed by the stress of time.
Like a white coat to the skin,
it cloaks the imperfection
and vulnerability of that
which lies beneath.
A coat enshrouding
scars of personal defeats–
of critical introspection while
striving to exhibit confidence and certainty.
to remain objective while
craving to empathize with you.
to continue feeling through perpetual
immersion into death and suffering,
while self-preservation casts increasingly
impenetrable layers of emotional shield.
And a fear
of not doing enough, while similarly
recognizing the peril of doing too much.
But as her knuckles meet the door,
she is reminded of an oath–taken
at the dawn of this journey–
an oath of compassion, of
integrity, of humility–
an oath to do no harm.
So as she enters
for she never forgot its
That one would never lose the joy of helping others.
Therefore as an imperfect human being,
she will do her best to ease your suffering,
treat your illness, be your advocate–
Not because it is her obligation,
but because this is her love–
To help her fellow man.
To care for you.
• • •
“…may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.”
-Oath of Hippocrates
• • •