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Paul Rousseau

“I want everything done. Please, Dr. Rousseau, do everything. We have two children–they can’t be without their father. Do you understand? Do what it takes to keep him alive!”

Angie, a petite woman with long blonde hair, fixes me with piercing blue eyes. Her husband, Joe, fifty-two, has scleroderma, an autoimmune disease. In its most devastating form, it hardens the skin and destroys the kidneys, heart and lungs.

Joe is

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Nineteen Steps

Priscilla Mainardi

Tuesday morning, eight o’clock, and I have seven things to do. Check vitals, change a dressing, get a patient out of bed, send another to the operating room. Review lab results, give medications, start a blood transfusion.

I have six patients, and they have an average of five morning medications each. I make three trips to the med room for supplies, two trips to the pantry for fresh water. 

Mrs. Napoli has eight

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Memento Mori

Craig W. Steele

Quo Vadis Nursing Home haunts the east side of Erie Street,

squatting opposite Roselawn Cemetery, whose wrought-iron gates 

gape tauntingly wide and welcoming. Today will soon be buried: 

three wizened men sit rocking, speechless, on the front porch, 

yearning for the shadowed marble and granite headstones,

no longer afraid of death, only of dying–suspended

between fear and need, stoically awaiting

the next busload of grade-schoolers determined

to brighten their deep-shadowed days.


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The One She Calls Milk

Amy Haddad

Is for pain but has a longer name
she can’t pronounce. It’s for when he shakes.
She is not sure if the shakes
mean pain since these days
he often cannot say.

Earlier when he could say,
he would mimic the circle faces
on the pain chart the nurses held up to him.
He would try on expressions
until he found one that fit

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for the Ten Days

Madeleine Mysko

We say goodbye, her hand goes up (but not
in time to catch me), then the breach: I kiss
my mother on the cheek. Oops, I say,
you’d better wash your face. We laugh, of course–
that’s the better way to make it through
the chemotherapeutic calendar.
But it’s no joke. Her white cell count is low.
I see my mother back away from me.

I’m treacherous. I’ve not observed the Ten
Solemn Days

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Beyond Reason

Kathy Speas

Visiting the dementia unit of a nursing home is never easy.

First off, you have to find your patient amid the assemblage of people–mostly women–seated in wheelchairs, recliners, wingbacks, sofas and assorted walkers, or wandering around. 

Then, you must make yourself known to the person you’ve found. Here’s where the harder questions arise: How can I introduce myself and convey my role–a hospice chaplain–to someone who has outlasted language? Is my state of

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Remembering John

Hilton Koppe

I remember you the day we met. It was five years ago. I was terrified. You seemed relaxed and at peace. I’d been invited to join the Lennox Head Club, in the town where I live and work; this over-thirty-five match was the first game of soccer I’d played in twenty-five years. I was the oldest on

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What About Bob?

Joseph Fennelly

The time: early one morning, thirty years ago.

The place: my local hospital.

At this point, I have been an internist for twenty years. I’ve just entered the cardiac care unit, where my patient Bob, a ninety-five-year-old man with advanced senility, has been brought because he’s having chest pain. 

As I step through the door, Bob codes.

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Cold Comfort

Mary T. Shannon

Leaning against the hospital bed’s cold metal rails, I gazed down at my husband lying flat on his back. Under the harsh fluorescent ceiling lights, his olive skin looked almost as pale as mine. 

We’d been in the outpatient unit since 6:00 am for what was supposedly a simple procedure–a right-heart catheterization to assess the blood

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Out of This World

Katelyn Mohrbacher

When I met Jasper, I was a third-year medical student doing a nine-month rural clerkship, and he was an eighty-year-old man in a coma.

Family members surrounded Jasper–a tall, broad-shouldered man–as he lay in the hospital bed. His wife, Esther, a petite, lively woman also in her eighties, stood by his head, grasping the bed rail. At the foot of the bed stood their son, a middle-aged man with a baseball cap on

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Escape to HuHot

Jennifer Frank

Hunched, shriveled, pinched
Enclosed in the metal prison of the wheelchair
You long to be free, unencumbered
By the oxygen tube connecting you to life

Each visit with me brings worse news
Creatinine up, red cells down
Carbon dioxide rising, oxygen falling
You have a medication deficiency

Once you were adventurous
Living life on the edge

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Goodbye From the ICU

Andrew R Carey

I do not know this man. I have never met him. All I know about him are the words typed in his medical chart–and that, before the day is out, he will die.

I have never heard him speak. I probably couldn’t pick him out in a crowd. Today he looks like a water bed: yellow,

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