"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
In 2010, I became a hospice volunteer.
My mother had died of a brain tumor five years earlier at age eighty-seven. I saw being a hospice volunteer as a way to express my gratitude for my mother's compassionate hospice care and to help other caregivers to weather a loved one's passing. And, as a former reporter and writer, I thought I could help people to write their life stories, if they were interested.
In short, I wanted to act on E.M. Forster's words, which for me sum up the goal of hospice: "Only connect."
I soon realized, though, that by the time most people come to hospice, they're too ill and/or too demented to carry on a conventional conversation, much less to express complex thoughts about the arc and meaning of their lives.
White coat, sterile gloves
my instrument dangling
but she finally died
after such a struggle--the young
always struggle so--
I listened to her chest
till it stopped then clicked
off the machine.
It sighed for us all as the air
drained out. And the moon
was still low in the sky
so large, so round--this
is a shape I know well--
and it hung there like a silver disc
auscultating the earth...
But I could no longer listen
as I sat on a night lawn
One cold February morning during my third year of medical school, I walked through the entrance of the rural hospital where I was doing a nine-month rotation, and made my way to the nurses' station. Feeling the warmth return to my face, I set down my coat and bag and hung my stethoscope around my neck.
The charge nurse, Barb, waved me to her computer.
"Kristie, you have a patient."
She shuffled through papers, grabbed a blank chart and placed the patient's admission note on top. When she saw the name, her face fell.
"Ah, it's Peggy."
a treasury of compelling stories and poems.
Includes The Resilient Heart , Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma and Confessions of a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Drug Addict. Foreword by Maureen Bisognano, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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