Sitting Alone

I was one of two managers covering the hospital one quiet Sunday morning when my pager beeped.

“Cafeteria,” said the voice that answered my call.

 “Hi, this is the nursing manager.”

“A child’s alone down here.”

In the cafeteria I approached the bevy of workers huddled by the phone.

“The little girl’s over there,” one of them said, pointing.

A small child was sitting quietly at a table. She had a round face and light brown hair pulled back with a pink barrette, soft curls falling below her ears. There were no toys or food in front of her. 

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The Waiting Game

 סַבְלָנוּת. The first Hebrew word I learned when I spent the 1972-1973 academic year in Jerusalem was “savlanoot”—patience. I added the word to my Hebrew lexicon, but I never incorporated it into my daily life. I am not a patient person; whether standing in line at the grocery store or checking my mailbox for the results of my mammogram, waiting causes me angst and anger. When I want something, I want it now.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, however, waiting has become an integral part of my life. I must patiently await the November 3 election, hoping that my

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An Editor’s Invitation: Waiting

Dear Pulse readers,
We are waiting.
Waiting for an election that is very close–already happening in some states–but still feels far off.
Waiting for a pandemic to come under control.
Waiting for systemic racism to be fully acknowledged and met head-on.
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For Some Ills, There Is No Pill

Fatigue comes in many forms. Physical fatigue. Compassion fatigue. Emotional fatigue.

I should know about physical fatigue, the kind I experience when I realize that I can’t jog for more than three minutes without taking a break. Then I remember that I am overdue for my iron infusions. Way overdue. I blame my poor self-care on my recent move–in the midst of a pandemic–and how the circumstances were not exactly conducive to getting under the care of new physicians, despite being a physician myself.

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I wake when the sky begins to darken. As the sun buries itself beneath the horizon, the hospital beckons.

Nights bring a kind of calm. I find that wakefulness, while others sleep, grants me something sacred—time, untouched.

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“There’s no hurry. Take your time,” the wife said patiently.

“Time, that’s all I have since I’ve retired,” the physician-husband said. “What do you have?”

“I’ve finally figured it out,” she replied. “What I’ve been feeling since the COVID-19 lockdown. It’s ennui.” She hadn’t used that word in many decades, probably since college French, nor even thought of it. “It just came to me,” she marveled.

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I’m. So. Tired.

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe it, actually. Exhaustion. Weariness. A deep, gut-wrenching physical ache that fogs my brain and fills my body with despair. I can feel the ache arise somewhere in the vicinity of my stomach, worm its way past my heart, and drive deep into my forehead. I close my eyes and imagine the bliss of sleep.

I’m so tired.

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Sleep Deprivation

Jeez, I’m tired! Hope I make it home without falling asleep! Okay, windows wide open, radio blasting. Here we go.

I had just finished working the 11 p.m.-to-7 a.m. shift at a hospital in Burbank, California. Now I was facing an hour’s drive home. Because I was afraid of falling asleep at the wheel, I always kept my right hand at the twelve o’clock position. That way, if I nodded off, my hand would relax, fall off the wheel, and awaken me. I was thankful the freeway congestion kept my speed slow.

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In B.C.—the “Before Covid” world—I always woke up before my alarm, set for 6 a.m., rang; by the time I was ready to teach at 9 a.m., I had often done laundry, dashed to the grocery store for a few necessities, and dusted at least one room of my apartment. If I napped, which I rarely did, it was always a brief respite to get a second wind. When I finally retired for the night—usually at 9 p.m., with time set aside for reading—I slept well, confident that I had led a productive, rewarding day.

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Editor’s Invitation: Fatigue

Dear Pulse readers,
Our More Voices theme this month is Fatigue.
Many are feeling fatigued these days. Fatigued by grief, by isolation and by worry brought on by COVID-19, a murderous guest that arrived in January and is still among us.
Fatigued every time an unarmed Black man is killed by police. “I’m weary,” a friend wrote to me shortly after George Floyd’s murder, “Simply weary. In every sense, spiritually, physically, emotionally…”
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Into the Night

What makes the desert beautiful . . . is that somewhere it hides a well.” — Antoine de Saint Exupéry

That summer night in the desert a few weeks before my seventh birthday is etched in my memory forever. We met our smuggler around sunset, when he came to our motel room to pick up my mom and all six of her kids, each of us with some degree of ailment—a broken arm, a bacterial eye infection, a cough. We followed the smuggler into the Tijuana-San Diego desert through a hole in a metal fence. By nightfall, we were hiding

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A Run with Death

I wrote “Katie” on my legs every morning the summer before my first year of medical school. Katie was a childhood friend of my friend Sammy. Sammy and I were doing a charity run across America with the Ulman Cancer Fund; every morning, my team would gather to dedicate our day’s run to a cancer survivor, fighter, or victim. Before embarking on the miles ahead, we would read their stories aloud.

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