“I will spend the next few days in the hospital. Not as a patient but as a daughter, a witness, another part of my mother while she heals. The TV on the wall winks with very little change in the news; surgical case number 80892 is still in the OR. I’m trying to find something, anything, to do.
“In the waiting room, there’s a large wooden case tucked into a dark corner; I spend half an hour looking at everything it holds: an archive of medical tools, empty bottles of ‘medicines’ such as clove, old teaching books. Everything seems just a little too heavy and strange, but not in the same way as the pre-op conversations did (synthetic opiates, draining tubes, wrist restraints).
“Our advancements from what is in this case make me feel both confused by and confident in modern medicine. Yet, what is here in this waiting room, left displayed for families to study while we wait, are the ancestors of the tools being used right now in case 80892 to fix my mother’s broken heart.”
Sara Kohrt is a linguistic researcher, analyzing dialogues between patients and providers to identify communication gaps, and also serves as the visuals editor for Pulse. She and her teenager live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina.