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Pacemaker

Cheryl Lewis

Knotted seams gather scrubbed skin
and titanium plumbs a heart–
guide wires routing an improvised pulse
and tracing an erratic existence.

In the beginning doctors said
genetic mistake, detrimental
mutation, one in 10,000
statistically speaking. God’s will.

At night we wrestle with angels.
Celestial static, incandescent
blue they search our souls
and finger a laboring heart,
heavy like dense lumpy clay
waterlogged and unformed.

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Bitter Medicine

Karen Libertoff Harrington

As a medical educator in a hospital setting, I often tell first-year medical students about disparities in health care and about the vastly different quality of care that hospitals deliver, depending on their resources. 

I tell my students how important it is to advocate for patients, to learn to navigate the healthcare system and to work respectfully with health professionals in order to get

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I Promise: A Mother’s Response to the Newtown Shooting

Tamar Rubinstein


Editor’s Note: One week ago, a deeply troubled young man carrying a semiautomatic assault rifle and two pistols broke into a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school and shot 26 people to death before killing himself.

Twenty of the victims were six- and seven-year-old children.

In a nation grown increasingly accustomed to mass shootings, the reactions to this massacre have been intense–and intensely personal. Today’s Pulse story is one such response, that of a parent. Last

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Five Years Later

Steve Lewis

Evenings in the Sloan-Kettering ICU were starkly lit–nowhere to hide from the glare, bloodshot eyes trained on blinking lights, buzzing machines, masked men and women passing soundlessly through sliding glass doors, and little but hours and hours of bright, eerie luminosity ahead.

By contrast, the days then were dark. No comfort to be found in the sunrise or in that old salve about everything looking better in the morning. My wife and kids

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Natural Selection

Jeremy Shatan

By the time my wife and I reached Hospital B’s exam room, early in the afternoon, we’d already put in a very long day. 

Across the room, which was no bigger than a galley kitchen, stood three doctors. One–I’ll call him the Chief–was the bearded, bushy-maned head of the pediatric oncology program. His explosion of salt-and-pepper hair

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In the Pediatric Ward

In this forest of tubes and bottles,
Children wander in sleep.
A dying bird drops
From the corner of my eye.
The night nurse floats through paths
Tending the rooted tubes,
Weighing the pause between breaths.
In the dark, a man’s voice
Stuns like a hunter’s gun.
We wait for dawn.

Last night we cried–four worn children
Facing their walls, and I,
Handing

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Counting Cards

Alexandra Godfrey

Once again, I see a still heart. As I stare at the fetal monitor, I search for signs of life. The screen flickers; my son’s heart does not.

The last time I saw him, he looked happy–content in his life-bubble. As he turned somersaults, he waved at me. I had thought he was saying hello, but I realize now that he was waving goodbye.

Soon I must deliver his still form into the

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Listening

 Elizabeth Szewczyk

I couldn’t erase their words,
catch the breath atoms, stuff
them between lips,
couldn’t raise survival rates,
lottery odds dependent on cells suctioned
at the precise moment.

Your chest thumping, frantic,
valves siphoning warmth, drawing
cold through vessels, to your feet
crisping leaves beneath us while
you spoke her life.

Replaying slowly, baby girl, toothless
smile, creative toddler scissoring
Barbie hair (and styling hers to match).
Then, like a runner, sprinting 
to that

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First Night Call

Abby Caplin

During my first night on call as an intern, I felt scared. Not just scared–terrified. I was serving on the medical center’s pediatric oncology floor, and medical school hadn’t prepared me for children with cancer. What did I know about cutting-edge chemotherapy regimens? What if a child suddenly developed an overwhelming infection or a seizure triggered by a tumor? Someone would expect me to know what to do.

“It’s okay,” said Brad, the

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Ripped From the Headlights

Maureen Picard Robins

“Get a notebook,” he said. 

Dr. Altman and I stood face to face on the pediatric surgical floor of Columbia-Presbyterian Babies & Children’s Hospital. It was the first week in December. A metal crib–it seemed more like a cage or prison–separated us. In this center space lay my yellow heart: my eight-week-old daughter, wounded by surgery, dulled by morphine, our whispers flying over her.

It had been nearly twenty-four hours since Dr.

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