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 stethoscope against your chest and listened.
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.
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
your room, she smiles– for she never forgot its concluding admonition:
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.”
Lines, tubes, wires, chains. Dignity stripped, cavities drained. The metronome of your pulse above the beeping orchestra, dissonant buzz. Each gesture tracked, beat recorded, breathing measured, life distorted. Do you still feel free?
The body, its function a masterpiece to muse, altered by poison, fluid infused. Vesicles, vessels, organs affixed, shrouded in blood, lymph intermixed. Adhered in oneness by tendon and skin, scarcely quickened by a pump grown dim. Do you still feel strong?
Risen before the dawning sun, a swarm of stoic white has come to declare the status of your issues– Liver, kidney, heart, lung, tissue. To examine and prod, inspect then move a person, a soul, or a number to improve? I hope you still feel human.
…though I take care of adults, I adore the tinier guests. 🙂
Welcome to PhoebeMD.com
Founded in 2013 by Phoebe Chi, MD, PhoebeMD: Medicine + Poetry is a health information and literary arts website that aims to inspire, empower, and inform through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting stories, and original poetry.