A Caregiver’s Heart.

I cared for you even before we met.

As letters meandering the page
sketched the contours of a portrait,
I looked forward to meeting you.

As I enter the room,
I sense a fragrance of time past,
of struggles endured years before–
silent whispers of a mind’s unrest
reflected through misted eyes.

As we talk,
of a soul’s facade you steadily disrobe.
Words of suffering and pain, joy and pride-
each syllable a silvered twine
weaving your life’s story.

I examine you.
Your heart-
that fulcrum deeply hinged.
A bittersweet thrum
of a battery strong but worn.
Your lungs-
that which sing
their own melodious song,
a lulling carol
invigorated with each exhale.

From there a journey it becomes
to strengthen you, to make you whole.
A disease conquered, a valley bridged.
A hollow filled, a life restored.

We work together.
As ripples in a wake,
your life affects mine,
for the same heart that aches
when you suffer
rejoices with you
in your victories.

Because this is what I treasure–
the chance to care for you,
to walk with you.

It is a privilege.

So thank you for letting me.

The Hug.

Bitterness.
Each word, a slap.
Each consonant, piercing.
Bursting in like a winter’s storm,
you permeated into our lives.

We wanted to help you,
but we only came to fear you.
Many shook their heads in pity.
Some avoided you.
Others talked about you.

Contempt.
Each gesture, scornful.
Each insult, stinging.
My attempts to talk to you
only seemed to anger you more.

You terrified me. Yet I yearned.
To see. To know. To understand.

I knew you were frustrated.
Your disease, unforgiving.
Slowly devouring. 
I knew you were discouraged.
Your body, powerless.
Slowly succumbing.

But why wouldn’t you let us care for you?

Desperation.
Each day, the same.
Each encounter, fruitless.
You turned us away again and again. 
Until one day I confronted you. 
I asked you why.
And you told me.

I know you don’t really care. This is only your job. 

My job.

It all made sense.
The bitterness. The coldness. The distancing.
I understood.

Stepping forward,
leaving behind the pride, the decorum, 

my arms enclosed around you.
The fear escaping my racing heart
only after you made a move to wipe your eyes.

You then collapsed into me.
My shoulder, an insulation
to the sound of choked sobs.

You never said a word.
But in your cry I heard your anguish.
I heard desolation.
I heard relief.

Things were never the same after that.

Your bitterness was gone.
Your words, softer.
Your eyes, warmer.
You allowed us to care for you, 
remaining strong even
as your disease progressed.

Until one day, like winter’s snow, 
the seasons beckoned for you to leave.
But even then, as you faded away,
you reminded me of the day everything changed–

The day I gave you the hug. 

The Patient.

I met you my intern year. I remember the first thing you said to me.

“I don’t care to be here.”

With a countenance creased from decades of hardship, a gait staggered from illness, eyes steeled by sufferings, your restrained presence betrayed a sheath impervious. I believed you previously had poor experiences in similar settings, because you told me so. I knew you didn’t trust me, because you told me so.

Our first few visits were stippled with formality. I posed questions; you answered. But they weren’t your answers, but perhaps words you knew I wanted to hear. I half expected you to stop coming. But you never did. Instead, you continued to sit there, guarded, a portrait of cordiality and cautiousness. 

And then one day it happened.

Your hard gaze glimmering with moisture, I saw your shell break. I then got to know you. Little by little, visit by visit. I learned of the pain you endure. I learned of your frustrations, your desperation…your despair. I learned of your deep heart. I learned many things. But most importantly, I learned who you were.

Months went by. Gradually a smile seeped through. Your eyes now shined as you shared with me the latest on your life. A life that I was lucky enough to now be a part of. But suddenly three years pass, and as my time with the clinic comes to an end, we now must part. On your last visit, I sense your frustration and anguish again, and I think I understand why. As you cry I reassure you that everything will be okay. But as I comfort you I am struck by a sudden surge of emotion, and I also struggle to keep my composure.

You see, through this experience, I have started to recognize what it is you were talking about. An understanding. A connection. Some may even say a friendship. Because even though you may not know this, I am now happier because you are happier. Because you are now healthier, more satisfied. Full of life. 

Now as we part I feel the tearing of a piece of my soul. As we hug one last time the goodbye is silent and understood. But then you pull back, look me in the eyes, and say simply, “Thank you for helping me live.”

As I hold back my own tears, I realize I am thinking the same thing.

Thank you for helping me live.

When We Simply Stop Caring.

I see it all around me.

Burnout. To be burnt.

When we simply stop caring.

Most of the time we don’t even need
to say anything.
But you know.
You hear it in our voice.
You see it in our eyes.
And you feel it too.
You know what
is going through our
mind with each wayward glance.

Is this what I signed up for?
Is this all this profession has to offer? 

Because I have seen the articles.
To prevent physician burnout.
The A-B-C’s.
Changes we must make.
Limiting expectations. 
Self-empowerment.
Decreased hours. 
Putting us first.

I too used to be desperate.

What is happening to me?
What is happening to my colleagues?

What is happening to medicine?

But then one day, I saw you.

You.

Not you the patient.
You the person.
You’re just
a person.
You are me.
And you are hurting.
And maybe I am too, although
you may never know.

So I thank you for being here.

Not only do I want you to know that
I honor the privilege of being able to
help you, but you should know that
you have in your own way
taken care of me.

And I do care for you.

◊ A Physician’s Plea ◊

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: