Month: April 2017

Learning the Meaning of Care

 

I was nervous. I had never been this close to someone who was about to die. I introduced myself, but the patient was non-responsive. I told her that I was going to sit with her and that I would stay for a few hours. As I sat down, I noticed her breathing–it was irregular, and each breath sounded like she was slowly and painfully drowning. Almost trying to distract myself from her breathing, I studied her face. The structure of her face–her jaw- and cheekbones–was well defined. My eyes wandered from her head to her shoulders and along her arms, and then I saw her hands.

Final Breaths

 
I remember my first code.
 
I was a senior in college, shadowing in the ER on a cold, Sunday night. Decembers in Providence can be brutal.
 
It was 11:30 p.m., and a voice came on the PA, urgency in her voice: “Code Blue, Code Blue.” The physician asked me if I had ever seen one before, and when I shook my head, he directed me to Critical Care Room C.
 
Behind a glass wall, I stood in silence, waiting. All the nurses and interns seemed on edge, ready to spring into action. I breathed in and out, in and out.
 

My First Code

The radio call comes in: “thirty-something male, cardiac arrest, compressions in progress, five minutes out.”

My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited. 

I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.

Cry for a Stranger

I cried for a stranger today.

Her sister sat expressionless next to her lifeless body, and when I walked into the room, she began crying.

My tears swell. I tell her how sorry I am, and how brave she was. She tells me that her sister died “so quickly and peacefully” and that “it was her time to go.” I am grateful she surrendered to the inevitable.

I leave to complete my documentation. Conflicted, I fight tears. I want to cry for her loss and for my loss. But, I am new here. I must make a good impression. What will they think of me? Unprofessional. Emotional. Unstable.

Crazy

Ginny Hoyle

I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches

of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
And failed.

When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart
behind a dozen jars of her best grape jelly
and drew ugly faces in my algebra notes.

When she came home,
I had no space to give her.
No, no, not in the kitchen;

my kitchen now.
Not in the blue chairs where she longed
at last to sit down, light up and chat.

BraakIV beary

Braak Stage IV

 Roberta Beary

About the artist: 

Roberta Beary is the 2017 Roving Ambassador for the Haiku Foundation, and haibun editor for Modern Haiku. The author of two award-winning poetry collections, The Unworn Necklace and Deflection, she writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. A photographer since her Polaroid Swinger days, she now uses her iPad to link her poems with images. More of her visual work can be viewed on Twitter @shortpoemz.

About the artwork:

“This is a photograph of my mother that I took a few months before her death in September 2013. She is with my dog Winnie. I was my mother’s caretaker for five years. She spent the last two years of her life in the memory-care wing of an assisted-living facility near my home. I would often visit her with …

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MaMA

 
Day Three: “Mama”–­ accent on the second syllable, “maMA” – how he opened all calls to me. They had put in the PICC line, a catheter in the arm used for long-term intravenous antibiotics, medications and blood draws. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”

Who Will Hear a Stored Voice?

I’m crying a lot these days. Goes with the territory, and the triggers are everywhere.

My thirty-one year-old son had a newer laptop than mine and an iPhone 6. My iPhone 5 was a hand-me-down from him. (Prior to that, my iPhone 3 was given to me by a former resident, now friend, who upgraded to a 5 and was tired of mocking me for my flip phone.)

I have been paying my son’s cell phone bill since he died on 1/16/17. I told myself I would do this until I could get it backed up so I could have his contacts, pictures and music (most of the music that I do not even like) until I can face going through the contents. And then I could expropriate it to be my phone. It’s the same with his laptop: I don’t want to lose what’s on there. 

Trusting the Process

As a rookie psychologist, I knew I had much to learn. Burdened with perfectionism, I had self-doubts about technique and process. I so wanted to do it right.
One day I was assigned a young client—a girl of no more than twelve, whose grandfather was anxious to have her seen by a therapist. His wife was dying, and the child’s mother had no interest in raising her. To complicate matters, the relationship with the grandmother was full of resentment on both sides. Not ideal in any way. 

Kleenex

 
Twenty minutes behind as I knocked on the exam room door and entered. No need for introductions. We knew each other well. We skipped the “asking the patient her goals for the visit.” I already knew them. Twenty years of caring for and being trusted by a patient and a friend allows that. Her goals were the same as mine. We were there to tell the truth.

Our First Conversation

 
You were the one whom the local cancer-care team felt needed a family doctor when you returned to our small coastal village after six months at a teaching hospital in the city.

You were the one who felt lost, who longed for professional advice and support.

I Didn’t Know

 
In my second year of college as a premed, I signed up to be an emergency room volunteer at a municipal hospital located just off campus. It was 1969, and the neighborhood reflected the larger urban community, including both established residents and newly arrived immigrants.
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