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First Code Blue

When I started medical school, I kept hearing about “firsts.” The first time in the OR, the first delivery of a baby, the first death of a patient.

In a profession that is so intricately intertwined with the ultimate highs and lows of human life, there are a number of experiences that inevitably go on to leave permanent marks on the mind. I was always told that my first code blue would be one of

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A Good Cry

I was a second-year resident, doing a twenty-four-hour shift on maternity care. I’d spent some arduous nights on call with my attending physician, Dr. Campbell; now we sat at the nursing station, joking about what this one might bring.

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Interpreter of Cries

 
It happens daily. I enter a room and come face to face with someone who’s afraid of me. But we make friends, we may even laugh and share a high five or two. Then I leave. And from the room next door, I can hear the horrendous cry. The aftermath. 

I’m a pediatrician, and the aftermath is when my capable medical assistant or nurse goes in after me to give a vaccine or

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Comfort Care

 
When a year ago he arrived at the clinic, he was a hard-working man with neck pain, there with his expectant wife and their adoring toddler. No one had anticipated a tumor.
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The Janitor

 
Outside the OR, at a dictation desk in the cold, quiet hallway, I sat alone. I stared at the black-and-white floor tiles, my eyes tricking me into seeing diamonds, then squares, then diamonds. As if my chest were squeezed in a vise-grip, I could barely take a breath. My body was frozen in place, held stiffly upright by the hard chairback, the only thing keeping me from collapsing inward.
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Tears of Friendship

 
As an aspiring physician, I recognize that I’ll likely be encountering death a great deal in my professional life, since it’s impossible to save everyone. So it’s probable that somewhere down the line, I’ll cross paths with a patient who is a part of my life for only a short time. Is it appropriate to mourn such a loss? Was I important enough to them that they would want me to grieve?
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Final Breaths

 
I remember my first code.
 
I was a senior in college, shadowing in the ER on a cold, Sunday night. Decembers in Providence can be brutal.
 
It was 11:30 p.m., and a voice came on the PA, urgency in her voice: “Code Blue, Code Blue.” The physician asked me if I had ever seen one before, and when I shook my head, he directed me to Critical Care Room C.
 
Behind

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My First Code

The radio call comes in: “thirty-something male, cardiac arrest, compressions in progress, five minutes out.”

My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited. 

I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.

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Cry for a Stranger

I cried for a stranger today.

Her sister sat expressionless next to her lifeless body, and when I walked into the room, she began crying.

My tears swell. I tell her how sorry I am, and how brave she was. She tells me that her sister died “so quickly and peacefully” and that “it was her time to go.” I am grateful she surrendered to the inevitable.

I leave to complete

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MaMA

 
Day Three: “Mama”–­ accent on the second syllable, “maMA” – how he opened all calls to me. They had put in the PICC line, a catheter in the arm used for long-term intravenous antibiotics, medications and blood draws. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
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Who Will Hear a Stored Voice?

I’m crying a lot these days. Goes with the territory, and the triggers are everywhere.

My thirty-one year-old son had a newer laptop than mine and an iPhone 6. My iPhone 5 was a hand-me-down from him. (Prior to that, my iPhone 3 was given to me by a former resident, now friend, who upgraded to a 5 and was tired of mocking me for my flip phone.)

I have been paying my son’s

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Trusting the Process

As a rookie psychologist, I knew I had much to learn. Burdened with perfectionism, I had self-doubts about technique and process. I so wanted to do it right.
One day I was assigned a young client—a girl of no more than twelve, whose grandfather was anxious to have her seen by a therapist. His wife was dying, and the child’s mother had no interest in raising her. To complicate matters, the relationship with the grandmother

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