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Flashback

I notice the name on the waiting room
tab; it’s not a remarkable name,
but one I remember
from elementary school
I remember his heavy brows,
which met in the middle
He had sharp cheekbones and
enraged brown eyes
I can almost hear him crying, the way
he always did when the teacher
grabbed him by the arm and
hauled him out of the

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The Big Chill

The Big Chill

Tonight was yet another night on call in our emergency department–a chilly winter night on which I did a cruel deed: I discharged a homeless man back out into the cold.
This is a routine event in the life of psychiatry residents like myself. Normally, no one would bat an eye. It shouldn’t have mattered to me, either–except that the previous night I’d had to walk home from the hospital parking garage in decidedly adverse

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The Look on Your Face

Priscilla Mainardi ~

Your skin pale with worry,
your mouth a straight line,
the fear in your eyes–
all this told me,
more than the nausea,
more than the fact that I couldn’t move my head,
that something was really wrong.

You thought I wouldn’t see.

I looked up at the ceiling,
at its pattern of dots,
white, and brighter white,
that could

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Night Call

Richard Weiss ~

At two am its insistent ring ambushes me awake.
I whisper, not wanting to disturb my wife or rouse
the dog who will whine for food, write down

the name and number before it’s jumbled, swallow
my resentment on being awakened and listen
to his story–then ask those practiced questions,

scrolling his body from one organ to another.
Tell me about the pain–what it

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Cushioning the Fall

Meghan G. Liroff ~

Angela Harris has been here in the hospital for six hours, awaiting the results of her CAT scan. I won’t take responsibility for all of that wait time: complicated CAT scans and labs do take a significant amount of time to perform. But she didn’t need to wait the last hour.

She was waiting on me–her emergency physician–because I needed to confirm her cancer diagnosis with radiology, arrange some

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Walking Each Other Home

Allie Gips ~

Winter in New England and
night replaces afternoon, darkness wraps the streets while we are all still inside.
There are no windows in the Emergency Department anyway
except of course the window into this city–the stream of women with bruised arms
and orbits that they will not explain, the revolving door of opiate addicts
nodding off, crying out, praying for forgiveness, the chronic-pain patients who rip

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Coming Up Short

Meghan G. Liroff ~

“Why so short?” says the four-year-old girl who’s here with an upper-respiratory infection.

Standing safely between her dad’s knees, she wears a bright pink jumpsuit. Her cheeks are dimpled; her hair is piled in a frizzy bun. She looks me up and down, as if trying to make sense of me.

I can’t help laughing.

It’s true, I think. At five feet even, I’m not blessed with height–but I

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25 Minutes

Pager rings. Just 5 minutes to get to the ED. Calling down as I rush to the trauma elevators, they tell me over the phone “Shots fired at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles.” I know that place…

At least 3 people arriving. The ED is bustling, preparing for their arrival. Blade and Prolene stitch in my scrub pocket, I am ready. We are ready.

For a moment the ED almost seems silent.

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Final Breaths

 
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

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My First Code

The radio call comes in: “thirty-something male, cardiac arrest, compressions in progress, five minutes out.”

My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited. 

I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.

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Afflicted

Kristin Laurel

It is the night shift, and most of Minneapolis does not know
that tonight a drunk man rolled onto the broken ice
and fell through the Mississippi.
He lies sheltered and warm in the morgue, unidentified.

Behind a dumpster by the Metrodome
a mother blows smoke up to the stars;
she flicks sparks with a lighter
and inside her pipe, a rock of crack glows

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Complainer

Christina Phillips

The patient, age forty-nine, complained of abdominal pain. She was taking both slow- and fast-acting oxycodone to manage the pain, and she also took antidepressants and a sleeping aid. She’d come to the hospital several times in the past year, always with the same complaint. This time, not feeling well enough to drive, she’d come by taxi. The veins in her arms were small, threadlike and collapsed, like those of a ninety-year-old

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