Ms. K was one of the oldest patients I’d met. I wanted to sit and hear her stories, to say, “Tell me more,” the way we learned in medical school. But the equipment sustaining her left no room for a chair to sit in. And COVID had stolen her ability to speak in sentences; she puffed out words two or three at a time before inhaling again. Even so, each word was sharp and spirited and made me smile.
Her face was a rich and deeply wrinkled landscape. Ms. K’s gown hung loosely on her, exposing the silhouettes of her ribs and knobby shoulders. I was surprised when I pulled the layers of blankets back from her feet. In contrast to her thin arms, her legs were thick and smooth, due to the accumulation of fluid as a result of her weakly pumping heart. Her heart had been failing for years, yet she had beaten the odds and thrived.