Two years ago, I’d just begun my new post as clinical supervisor at the caregiver-support center at a large medical institution. The center offers emotional and practical support to families of patients who are dealing with serious illnesses and hospitalizations.
In my short time there, I’d already encountered many memorable clients, but somehow I felt a special connection with one woman, Maria. A small, intense woman with piercing dark eyes, she often
The doctor covers my mother’s hand
with his own hand. Her hand is
a speckled egg he is keeping warm.
The nursing assistant reaches out
to touch the yellow roses,
and murmurs, “Bonito.”
Several people come in and speak
cheerily to the bedcovers and the curtains,
but not to my mother,
who no longer makes eye contact.
I need a new stethoscope. I have to wrap my fingers around the fissures in the tubing to make this one work.
For me, these days, listening to the patient’s chest is more a ritual than a means of diagnosis. After twenty years as a primary-care internist, I now work full-time in hospice and palliative care. I spend more time listening to stories than to hearts and lungs. Even so, there’s
I’m walking very slowly with my dad down the produce aisle at the local supermarket, past the colorful waxed apples, Mexican mangoes and Rainier cherries, and imagining my life’s blood trickling onto the floor from an invisible wound.
As I pass by the misting system spraying the bins of green, red, yellow and orange peppers, past the lady reaching for carrots, past the stock guy balancing the heirloom tomatoes into a
I had been in London on business all of seven hours when my son, Tom, called me at two in the morning from our hometown, Sydney, Australia.
“Grandma’s had a fall. She’s been taken to the hospital, but she’s all right.”
My mother’s having a fall was nothing unusual; she had always been an unpredictable fainter. My husband and children and I called it her party trick, making light of it to soothe
When I read news articles about caring for elderly parents at a distance, I sometimes shake my head. There’s a tendency to put the best spin on the experience: as long as you contact the right people, get the right information and treat the ups and downs as just part of life’s challenges, you’ll be fine. You can do this!
I find myself wondering when the author last talked to a caregiver at
Once upon a time, I was a newspaper journalist: I chased down sources and sweated over deadlines. Then, in mid-career, I switched to doing marketing and communications for a regional healthcare system. This consisted of a large hospital and many outpatient clinics, including a community cancer center.
Because I handled communications work for the cancer center, I also had a seat on the Cancer Committee–an oversight group of oncologists, pathologists, nurses and other
When I cannot help remembering, I recall
that the end of your memory arrived
in a Texas spring so wet it churned the rivers,
ripped white frame houses from the banks
and sent them rampaging on the currents
like Pamplona bulls turned loose into the streets.
There were bridges on those rising rivers, and
I cannot help remembering
He considered the wasted moult of a once
large, ferocious creature: mouth agape,
muscles twitching with every rattled breath.
Agapé–my friend the scholar marveled
at the homograph, and the thing that feasted
on his father. He laid a futon at the foot
of the high white bed, some books, a laptop,
a thermos. Nearby, an emesis basin,