Body and Mind
Dr. C. doesn’t sit, as if he won’t be staying long, but he does have information for us. He says that 75 percent of women deliver within a week of membrane rupture. He says that if they induce labor now, and Olivia is alive, we will have complete say in her care and how much we want the doctors to do to keep her alive. But if I deliver a few days from now, my daughter will be twenty-four weeks, and the hospital’s ethics board will step in to limit our choices.
I cannot see their hands joined in a correspondence that is exclusive, intimate, his fingertips receiving the voice of her sick body through the rhythm and throb she offers at her wrist. All at once I am envious — not of him, not of Yeshi Dhonden for his gift of beauty and holiness, but of her. I want to be held like that, touched so, received. And I know that I, who have palpated a hundred thousand pulses, have not felt a single one.
Though we aren’t blasé about death, we are accustomed to it. We know it will happen. When a person is hospitalized, it means his or her condition could turn serious, fast. A simple case of pneumonia could result in a whole-body infection that spirals and becomes fatal. A patient receiving a new hip could develop a blood clot that clogs his lungs. A heart-failure patient could suffer an arrhythmia. But hospital deaths are rarely as terrible as John’s.
All day I fought the HIV virus, a bug that was taking men — or mostly men — from the world, and at night I found light-brown, circular bugs on my pillow. I never crushed them; I lifted them delicately into a trash bin.
It is time for him to mark the spot that he will cut out. I turn around in the chair, and the starched edge of his white coat brushes my naked shoulder as he moves behind me. I can smell the magic marker and feel the cold circle he draws on my back. He asks if anybody is here with me, and I say no. I know what he’s thinking: that he won’t have to come out and talk to the relatives in the waiting room after the surgery is over.
Raymond Barfield On Practicing Medicine With Compassion
You have to notice beauty when it appears. That means you have to show up and shut up. If I could give just one piece of advice to all medical students, I would say, “Show up completely, and then shut up for at least two minutes while the miracle in front of you tells you who they are and how you can help them.” If every doctor did just that one thing, it would change medicine.
Stephen Jenkinson On How We Deny Our Mortality
At every deathbed and hospital room, I didn’t see sane dying. I saw sedated dying, depressed dying, isolated dying, utterly disembodied dying. Sane dying would require a childhood steeped in death’s presence, an adulthood employed in its service, and an elderhood testifying to its necessity. Sane dying is a village-making event: lots of people with plenty to do, the whole production endorsing life.
The plastic prescription vial contains thirty doses. I press the cap down, twist it counterclockwise, and shake a cylindrical pill into my hand. It is an ugly gray, like dryer lint, like newly poured concrete, like a bullet. I know my daughter will notice this.