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At his mother’s request, or rather pestering, a forty-year-old male presented to an urgent-care center after several weeks of progressively worsening flu-like symptoms. His mother asked that the providers please check her son’s heart. They replied that there was no need and sent the man home.
His symptoms progressed, and the pair went to the ER, hoping for better results. Again, the mother asked the doctors to check her son’s heart.
On June 2, 2010, I was giving a poetry reading at the faculty club at Columbia University Medical Center in New York as part of their “Literature & Medicine” series. I still have the list of poems I read that day, poems that spoke of my work as a nurse practitioner. One poem described my examination of an abused woman; another recounted the experience of a young teen, raped by her sister’s boyfriend. Other poems concerned
On Friday, February 29, my wife Mary and I had back-to-back doctor’s appointments at Kaiser Permanente in Moreno Valley—she to talk about a puzzling lethargy that had been dogging her and I to talk about an odd chest pain that I thought a remnant of the flu I’d had in late January.
Dr. McDougal listened to my heart and then listened to my description of the pain.
Tierra Nueva, Dominican Republic
from all this–from machines
and plastic tubes, from the shooters
with their dyes, from the guys
who scan your organs
for the truth, from waits in cold rooms
whose lights illuminate your life
and make it…nothing. I respected
the darkness in you–your son
dead in a senseless crash, the stroke
itself, your husband’s absence.
from its suitcase of slightly sweaty skin
across to the diaphragm, a divide keeping
him from me, now breached, the world now open
crawling up a well-used black rubber tunnel
to my ears, calling to me, waiting to begin
knowing, albeit briefly, the mysteries within.
in, out, in, out, in, out, the rhythm of breath,
Lying in a hospital bed while awaiting heart surgery, I looked at my teen daughter and my parents, then smugly pointed out the irregular slashes on the cardiac monitor.
“See these?” I said. “They’re called PVCs. My doctor is going to fix them. Make them all go away.”
The asymmetrical rhythm, a frequent and annoying pattern of multiple skipped heartbeats, had plagued me for the last three years, despite my swearing off caffeine
Joe Burns ~
“Did you have heart surgery?”
The shy seventeen-year-old girl’s question caught me completely off guard.
Her name was Sarah. Everything about her seemed perfectly organized–her long black braid falling ruler-straight between her shoulders, her folder with all of its documents sorted by date, her matching shoes and shirt, her entire wardrobe without a single wrinkle.
Her health was a bit less perfect. She’d been born with an atrial