© 2019 Pulse - Voices from the Heart of Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved.
We stand outside in the heat. We swat at the occasional persistent mosquito. We try to ignore the sweat beading down our foreheads and the backs of our necks. We retreat to the deepest recesses of shade we can find. We wish for a hint of a wisp of a smidgen of a breeze. We hold court on life and love. We laugh and tease and are determined to have a good time.
I first met Marie five years ago. A petite, soft-spoken woman in her thirties, she was the patient of one of the residents whom I supervise at our community hospital. Marie worked in housekeeping for a large corporation; she and her husband, a bus driver, had a six-year-old son. Now she was twenty-six weeks (six months) pregnant with their second child.
Marie’s blood pressure was markedly elevated (168/120), she had fairly
The woman lying on the transport cot in the examination room was terrified. I could see it plainly in her eyes, but there was no time to stop and comfort her.
I was a young, recently graduated nurse in a busy urban emergency room, struggling to keep up with its daily array of shootings, stabbings and crises. ER nurses hustled. We dealt with life and death, and we did it quickly.
Albert Howard Carter III
(for NCC and RAC)
My wife lies in the little room,
tight as a drum, and even more convex.
She breathes hard as the contractions come.
The doctor, some 20 feet away,
shares his lunch with me,
the husband and coach;
My wife, lunchless today,
hears this act of betrayal
and resents (I learn later)
that we are eating cake:
tucked into the chaos of the emergency department
is a single room with stirrups, a floor spackled with blood,
& a woman whose face betrays nothing.
the bodies of all those i have touched who have then
died pile before me like so many broken eggshells
so i stand against the wall to distance myself from her
& her cramping uterus, her dark red clots that fall
Once the weeks of morning sickness subside, I feel as if I’ve grown wings.
Even with the fatigue, it’s as though someone has pressed a great “reset” button on years of inflammation. That elbow joint that hasn’t straightened fully for years suddenly rediscovers its full range of motion. My knees, too, become straighter and stronger than they’ve been in many years.
Even without the meds, ditched in honor of my
About the artist:
Justin Sanders trained as a family doctor and is now pursuing a career in palliative care. He and his wife live in Boston, preparing to welcome their first child into the world. Having studied art history and worked in the fine arts, he has a deep faith in their healing power. He
She lives in a small cell
on the Maximum Security Unit
pregnant with her tenth love child
the other nine scattered
like dried leaves in the wind.
Beneath the baggy government-issued jumpsuit
her belly swells and shifts with the weight of life
a heaviness of never hearing first words,
seeing first steps, or kissing cherub cheeks goodnight,
thoughts as chilling to the bone
as the December blizzard outside.
Over the intercom Officer Ryan’s