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Living and Letting Go in the ICU

Driving from the Atlanta airport, I arrived at the hospital ICU where my mother had been admitted the day before for trouble breathing. This was the hospital where my siblings and I were born and where our father died. This was the hospital featured in The New York Times following the coronavirus outbreak in March 2020. The hospital still sees record numbers of COVID admissions, and I expected the staff to show signs of exhaustion

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The World’s Second-Best Baklava

In 2013, as a hospitalist, I attended the annual conference of the Society of Hospital Medicine. This meant traveling from my home base in Ohio to Washington, DC, the site of that year’s conference.

The second day was winding down. Colleagues, new friends and countless strangers were scurrying to their rooms to freshen up and get ready for a night out on the town, where they’d continue to mingle, share research and professional achievements and scout out career opportunities.

I had other plans,

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Where My Story Ends and Yours Begins

It was a Thursday morning, my first day on the medical oncology service. I hurriedly gathered my white coat and badge, the block letters “3rd Year Medical Student” unmistakable in fresh ink. Taking a deep breath, I forced myself to look up at the cancer center.

This is going to be difficult, I thought.

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Wreckage

It must have come in a hurry
on a ship of pain, breaching
the weak seawall of her lungs.
The tumor, split from its moorings, set adrift.

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Prayers of Passage

The day began in Mom’s room with a 10:00 am conference at Upper Valley Medical Center, west of Columbus, Ohio. In attendance were my ninety-three-year-old mother Joanne (now in her third week of hospitalization), her palliative-care nurse Richard, her Episcopal priest Mother Nancy and myself.

Mom was on high-flow oxygen therapy delivered through a nasal cannula. Despite this, her blood-oxygen levels were well below normal. Clearly, her lung function was declining. Her heart

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Where She Will Be

Francie Camper ~

City snow blankets my little mother in her hospital
bed in her bedroom, no wonder she is confused,
pointing to things in the air, on the ceiling that only
she can see. She might be hailing a cab. She raises
her head to tell me, Four members of the Isenberg
family came to visit and one was Mima Ettel,
who is already buried in

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Top of the Hill

Erika Walker ~

“It’s as if you’re at the top of a hill,”
the doctor said. My father listened
from his hospital bed, a plastic tube

fed him breath he could no longer take
for himself. “Each time you get sick,”
the doctor said, “you roll a little farther

down the hill.” His young face shone
above his white coat. I remember rolling
down green

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My Evidence

When I saw dust settling,

the road black and gritty,

and noticed the air
shimmering as it lowered closer to the earth

like a soft blanket suffocating
the damp September

mornings that had morphed seamlessly
into November’s

crowded table
of berries, sweets, and yellow corn,

just before the hospital
phoned to say that Mother had called my name,

familiar syllables

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Mothers and Meaning

John G. Scott

“Dr. Scott, this is Dr. Font.” The call came from my mother’s cardiologist as I was about to see my first patient of the morning. “Your mother is worse. You’d better come as soon as you can. I don’t think she’ll survive the day.” Those blunt words shattered my denial: I had convinced myself that it was possible to fix the cumulative, lifelong damage wreaked on my mother’s heart by her atrial

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