"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
E. Wesley Ely
The first time I saw Jessa, she lay crumpled in the ICU bed, paralyzed, expressionless and unable to speak. A military veteran, she had fought in Desert Storm, but she now was facing a deadlier and more inexorable foe: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig's disease.
This disease causes progressive loss of muscle control, and Jessa was unable to speak, eat or breathe on her own. Her only means of communicating was through small facial movements--opening and closing her eyes or mouth, raising her eyebrows.
A dozen people made up her ICU team: three interns, three residents, a pharmacist, a nurse, a respiratory therapist, a social worker, a hospital chaplain and myself--the lead physician, or intensivist.
The doctor covers my mother's hand
with his own hand. Her hand is
a speckled egg he is keeping warm.
The nursing assistant reaches out
to touch the yellow roses,
and murmurs, "Bonito."
Several people come in and speak
cheerily to the bedcovers and the curtains,
but not to my mother,
who no longer makes eye contact.
The woman lying on the transport cot in the examination room was terrified. I could see it plainly in her eyes, but there was no time to stop and comfort her.
I was a young, recently graduated nurse in a busy urban emergency room, struggling to keep up with its daily array of shootings, stabbings and crises. ER nurses hustled. We dealt with life and death, and we did it quickly. That may be why I paid so little attention to the pain and fear in the woman"s eyes.
I asked her to get onto the examination table and duly recorded the facts: her last menstrual period had taken place several months before; her bleeding and cramping had started earlier this evening.
Tossing her a gown, I told her to put it on and get back onto the cot so that she could rest until the doctor could come and examine her. Then I left, forgetting about her the moment the door closed behind me.
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.
Click to read more or to purchase.