fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Allie Gips

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
like sleet, her blank eyes that stare strictly at the ceiling
while we busy ourselves with machinery: the speculum,

the ultrasound probe, the specimen container to bring
to pathology as if their reading will serve as some kind
of an answer. the team talks about passing the products
& i know they mean products of conception but i can’t
help but imagine her endometrium as the entrance
to a hair salon stacked with glossy tubes & bottles
that promise silkiness, sleekness, sexiness, & for a brief
second the coursing blood is nothing more than manic
panic hair dye ready for a night on the town & we are not
here, we are anywhere but here, we are just five women
crowded by the bar talking about the dj talking about
the drink special talking about the man with the scruffy beard
about falling in love about getting married about having
babies babies babies–

& there, i am crashing back down
to where the transvaginal probe
is covered in a lewd condom & lube
& when we slip it inside of her
we can see that she is as empty
as her upward staring eyes.

About the poet:

Allie Gips is a native Mainer and a fourth-year medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York City. She is applying for residency in emergency medicine.

About the poem:

“Miscarriages were one of the sorrows I was least prepared for when I entered my third-year clinical rotations. They highlighted the divide between the clinician’s and the patient’s experiences: for the clinician, they are so common as to seem entirely physiologic, while for the patient, they represent not just the loss of a pregnancy but the loss of an entire imagined childhood, from early playdates to high-school graduations. While I don’t pretend to understand what this woman went through that night in our emergency department, this poem is an attempt to bear witness to her loss.”

Poetry editors:

Johanna Shapiro and Judy Schaefer

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9 thoughts on “november”

  1. Though I’d seen a number of them as a paramedic, I never realized the emotional weight a single miscarriage can carry until nearly twenty years after the fact of my former wife’s first pregnancy–during therapy, as our marriage was breaking up. The dual point of view in this fine poem tells us all we need to know. Clearly, the poet does understand.

  2. Such a powerful piece. In practicing family medicine in the inner city for over twenty years, I have been witness to such sorrow and loss at the moment and the days and months that follow. We need more physicians like you Allie who take the time in busy rotations to reflect on the emotional as well as physical pain that you will be witness to in emergency medicine.

  3. Phyliis L. Geller

    I had several miscarriages many years ago when I was young. My doctor made me feel guilty and others just dismissed it. Fortunately, I was able to eventually have two daughters. I can certainly identify with patients as a poet, publisher and a psychotherapist.

  4. As a healthcare professional I am frequently stunned by the deep emotions patients and/or situations sometimes have on me, especially when they are being given a terminal diagnosis. Having suffered a miscarriage of my own, I have often wondered… Thank you for your beautiful honesty.

  5. Grueling, Allie,… I respected your escape from the situation and then having the strength to come back. Thanks for honoring many of the feelings out here.

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