Tag: terminal Illness

Simple Acts

Dianne Avey ~

One night on my nursing shift in the cardiac intensive-care unit, I received a new patient from the operating room: an eighty-eight-year-old woman who had suffered a major heart attack and had just undergone emergency coronary-artery bypass surgery.

Her bed was wheeled into the room along with the usual accoutrements: six different IV drips, a ventilator, an aortic balloon pump and various other lines and monitoring devices. Her name, I

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Withering Away on the Outside

You are an angel, undeserving of such tortuous demise.

I bit my tongue to hold back these words I was thinking but couldn’t say to our young, male patient with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The attending physician had just exclaimed, “Foot drop is often one of the first signs of ALS. Do you notice here the distal muscle atrophy, including the intrinsic muscles of the hand, namely the dorsal interosseus muscles and

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Going Through the Grits

Scott Newport

It was another day at a renovation project on the fourth floor of an office building. Glancing at my iPhone, I noticed that my buddy Dave had called a couple of times. Now, coming down a stepladder for what seemed like the hundredth time, I saw his name pop up again. This time I set down my hammer and found a quiet place.

“Hey Scott, ol’ buddy, I got a request,”

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Giving Blood–and Other Acts of Courage

Liz Witherell

I donated blood today. I’m one of those people who doesn’t shudder at the thought of needles piercing my skin, or get queasy as I watch the blood drain from my vein into the collection bag. It’s no big deal. I eat the cookies and drink the juice afterwards, and I kind of enjoy talking with the elderly volunteers.

I think I’m lucky. I know so many people who are sickened

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Thirty Below

Kristie Johnson

One cold February morning during my third year of medical school, I walked through the entrance of the rural hospital where I was doing a nine-month rotation, and made my way to the nurses’ station. Feeling the warmth return to my face, I set down my coat and bag and hung my stethoscope around my neck.

The charge nurse, Barb, waved me to her computer.

“Kristie, you have a patient.”

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The Cancer Center

Nancy Tune

First impression: New and well appointed,
staffed by friendly people and my favorite, irony.
In the clinic hallway a woman plays a harp.
I have come to learn about the process of
my dying; surely this is meant to shake me
free of dread and make me laugh. It doesn’t, quite.

During treatment: I know where to go,
my focus straight ahead. Walkers,
wheelchairs, frightened

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No Prospect

His uneasy truce with cancer
was shattered by
the seizure,

awakening confused
in a side-railed bed.
He lies quiet, astonished

by the speed of change,
still hearing echoes of
his home.

I sit silently by his side
as he reads the ceiling tiles,
the monitors,

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Lightheaded

Ellen Cole

Lightheaded, as I so often am
when leukemia fevers sweep over me,
I fail to notice when I begin to rise,
feet bidding the floor goodbye,

I say, Brian, but you,
your eyes shut,    
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata
whispering in your earphones,

do not see me wink out the window
like lamp light, the lawn glittered
with glow-worms, echoed above
by the stern slow music of stars.

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The Pros and Cons of Living with a Terminal Illness

Ellen Diamond

Before I retired in 2000, I worked in a state agency as a peer counselor, or more formally, an employee assistance program (EAP) coordinator. The “coordinator” part was there because my job description wasn’t actually to do counseling; it was to assess the problem and refer the client for help.

But of course both of those processes involved counseling. We just couldn’t call it that.

In 1986, shortly after I’d begun the job,

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Bonding Time

Nelly Schottel

As an intern in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), I am one of several doctors who rarely see or touch the tiny patients we treat. We sit in a back room off a distant hallway, far removed from the babies, reviewing lab results and blood gases on the computer. Much of the time I feel like the Wizard of Oz, controlling a marvelous machine from behind a curtain.

The only uninterrupted time I

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Genuine Touch

Jonathan Gotfried

I was a medical student doing my fourth-year rotation on the oncology floor. The floor offered many new sights, and from the first, I was struck by the two mammoth massage chairs sitting in a corner at the end of the longest corridor. 

Their exaggerated curves were plastered with jet-black faux leather adorned with stitching details. Long, smooth armrests

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An Apology

Jordan Grumet

I’m sorry, Mrs. Lewis, for not making it to the hospital to see you yesterday….

Yesterday was one of those days when I felt like I could never catch up. My wife was going downtown for work, and we had to get up early. While she prepared, I helped my two-year-old son get dressed. We walked my wife to the train, then waited for the nanny. She was running late: I finally made

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