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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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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.
 
A few minutes later, the paramedics rushed in, wheeling an elderly woman into the room.
 
The medical team checked her pulse and breathing, intubated her, hooked her up to the heart monitor.
 
The clock ticked as people did chest compressions, repeating the cycles.
 
Suddenly the beeping on the monitor fell flat.
 
Someone looked up at the clock and called time of death.
 
All I could think about was that she breathed her final breath. Perhaps she was someone's mother, grandmother. Someone's neighbor, friend, sister.
 
Later that night, the attending asked me how I felt. I was not sure what to say. That rising feeling of oncoming tears began to surface, but I tried hard to push it down. I gulped once, twice, breathed in and out silently.
 
Who would call the relatives? Who would comfort the family members?
 
Night became morning, and I finally arrived back to my college dorm at 3 a.m. I ate a snack, took a quick shower, slipped into pajamas and closed the lights, and cried.
 
I was not exactly sure why I was crying. After all, I did not know the woman at all. Was it overwhelming emotions? The thought of death? Knowing she was gone?

Somewhere out there maybe someone was crying for her, too.
 
The next day, I called my mom. I listened to her voice, reminding me to be thankful for each day, each moment, each breath.

Anna Delamerced
Providence, Rhode Island