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Wynne Morrison 

Tears should be surprising.

He is, after all, well over six feet tall,
must top 250 pounds,
always quick and confident
with a joke upon his lips.

Most of his patients weigh a pound or two.
Eyes fused shut, translucent skin,
with lives of needles, tubes,
machines and probing hands.
On this week there are too many
who will never have a chance.

Chocolate, silence, and he hauls
himself up from the office couch.
"At least I can still cry," he says
and turns back up the stairs to work.
 

About the poet:

Wynne Morrison is a pediatric critical-care and palliative-care physician in Philadelphia. "The patients and families I care for are almost always enduring incredibly difficult emotional situations. Writing helps me slow down to be able to acknowledge that what I see does impact me."

About the poem:

"This poem was based on a real incident where a 'tough' trainee let down his guard to show for a moment just how much his patients' deaths affected him. Then he moved on to get back to work. I think both responses are emblematic of how one can acculturate oneself to a life in medicine--you have to figure out how to handle the emotion, and at the same time work through how to go on caring for the patients. I wrote the poem because it perfectly illustrates that one can do the latter while still remembering to be human."

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

Comments   

# Toni Koch RN, BSN 2013-11-18 16:59
Touching; beautiful. The only area of nursing I can effectively focus on the care and assistance for clients and family facing loss of their loved ones, and death has been hospice and long term care; primarily adult health. Despite all the possible positive outcomes, I can not imagine facing such loss with children, infants and their families. I admire all who are a part of pediatric medicine. I thank you and God for your heroic gifts.
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# Regina Harrell 2013-11-18 16:38
Well done--the balance between professionalism and humanity, and how we continue to provide excellent care in stressful situations.
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# Martin Kohn 2013-11-18 08:56
Wynne- beautifully wrought poem, capturing something that we hope to uncover through our next reflective writing assignment for our first year medical students: too often emotions gets compartmentaliz ed, then further ignored, and finally extinguished... .
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# Seren Fargo 2013-11-16 01:48
Very nice. A well-written and powerful poem stated concisely and effectively. And I like how it normalizes emotions, no matter who is experiencing them.
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# Pris Campbell, Ph.D 2013-11-15 19:05
Excellent, moving poem. I was a Clinical Psychologist who worked with many people with chronic mental illnesses, who hadn't much hope for a life on their own. I went from that to living with a chronic health illness that has only palliative measures as ways to help. From one side of the sofa to the other, moving with compassion.
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# Karen R. Richardson 2013-11-15 18:47
I am a Neuroscience RN, specializing in Epilepsy and I also did Pediatric Epilepsy. At that point, I had to share my compassion with chronic illness and patient death as well as my own daughter's death. I reached out above and beyond to bear witness to the suffering and heartbreak, as though i had all the time in the world. Then I made another call. Well expressed poem and a credit to being a Provider. xo
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# Martina 2013-11-15 17:13
Thanks for this poem. I love what it says, and how clearly you have shown it!! It reminds me of the Healer's Art class Hippocratic oaths, which are so profound. Bless you!!
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