I cradle a fragile baby whose heart cannot support her growth. I have fed her, bathed her, changed her diaper, rocked her to sleep, and measured her meds in drips per second, all in the hope that she will gain enough weight to withstand surgery.
I take the baby to sit in the playroom because I know her eyes will sparkle to the sound of little voices. She coos as we sit among chattering toddlers with clanging IV poles.
Suddenly her eyes go dull, and she is limp in my arms. Blood erupts from her mouth
My ICU room is quiet, except for the interruption of the sounds made by equipment attached to me. My most important visitor, my wife, has gone home for the evening. Thoughts of despair and brokenness begin to creep in. I contemplate what life after emergency, life-saving, open-heart surgery will be like for my wife, and will she recover from the trauma and fear she has endured.
As Editha, the nightshift ICU nurse, enters my room to take my blood sugar reading, I ask if I can have some morphine for the pain. With a smile, she
As the final hours of 2020 approach, I try to tie up the loose ends as I sign over our busy inpatient service to the next attending physician. As I do so, my mind begins reflecting on the first nine months of this pandemic.
The hardest part has not been the hassle of donning and doffing the PPE. Nor, figuring out how to optimize drug dosages to best treat patients with COVID. The hardest parts are these: finding inner quiet among the incessant overhead rapid response alerts; learning to treat the loneliness and despair visible in
During a routine Thursday evening clinic, I knock on the exam room door, enter, and greet my patient. She is an elderly Puerto Rican woman with worsening Type 2 diabetes, a new bleeding sore on her face, and chronic back pain.
As I log onto the computer, my patient and her niece discuss how guapa I am, and I blush silently. The patient smiles, at ease, as her niece laughs wildly, such music to my ears.
As this visit concludes, we plan a telemedicine follow-up in three months. My sweet patient forgoes her pre-pandemic kisses and hugs,
For five years I had the privilege and honor of visiting hospital patients as a pet therapy volunteer with my springer spaniel, Baker. During those years, when I also cared for elderly parents, the smiles of patients and clinical staff and gratitude for the pet therapy visits sustained me. I couldn’t stop my parents’ decline, but I could brighten a stranger’s day.
Pet therapy rounds required me to adapt to each patient’s situation and allow the visit to unfold. When we entered the room, the mood became lighter; solemn faces broke into smiles. Some patients wanted
When the shutdown came last March in Michigan, I could not attend my favorite (only) granddaughter’s wedding in Toronto, but she included me on FaceTime. I struggled with Zoom for City Council and Zoning meetings: many of us were fighting the building of a parking ramp in our neighborhood. From my window, I watched as crowds gathered at the Capitol, twice, to protest the shutdown, with kids, flags, blasting car horns and guns. My daughter in California threw a joyful 80th birthday party for me on Zoom, with family attending from four states and Canada. One
As a child, I played a game called “Mother, May I.” Because I usually forgot to say the correct words—“Mother, may I?”–I spent most of the game retreating several steps instead of moving forward.
I often think of this childhood game as I try to heal—mentally, physically and emotionally—from almost eleven months of self-isolation in a world that has stolen my job, my theater and my social interactions from me. Yet, every time I feel as if I am healing—moving forward in acceptance and hope—I descend further into the darkness.
My children and friends tell me
We are on the cusp of something. The weather outside says so with its mellow almost-warmth, the green grass coaxed out of latency, buds starting to form on trees that should be dormant. At an hour that should be frosty, birds are already singing to the just-risen sun, and the sky reveals a careless blue. This could be March, that month of dramatic change, time to think of planting things, of growing.
I am outside in a sweatshirt, repairing a fence, snuggling our animals, letting my lungs fill with this peaceful morning. I putter and delay,