"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
Through Our Eyes #2 (Playground)
Yesterday my friend Sophie asked me to accompany her to a Miami hospital intensive-care unit to see her older brother, Guillermo. He'd been admitted the previous night with seizures and cardiac arrhythmia.
Joined by my husband, we made our way to the ICU. When she saw Guillermo lying immobile, swollen and unresponsive, with a breathing tube in his mouth and other tubes snaking into his chest from IV poles, Sophie broke down sobbing.
Seeing her reaction, I felt a little ashamed at my own calm, although I knew it was hard-earned. During my years as a family doctor working in Miami-Dade County's community clinics, I'd witnessed countless scenes like this one. Where Sophie saw a beloved brother utterly vulnerable and present only physically, I saw a fluid-overloaded patient hooked up to a ventilator, with the appropriate drugs being administered and a dialysis machine cooling and filtering his blood to treat his seizures.
Virginia is sweet. And I don't mean that in a patronizing, "Isn't she cute and sweet in her neediness and cluelessness" kind of way. You can tell that she has always been a warm and inviting person, and that she likes people. And today, I need sweet.
As an Adult Protective Services (APS) social worker, I've had quite a week among the belligerent abusers, the angry hoarders and the adult children unwilling to help their aging parents who are living in squalor. So I am thrilled that my new client, Virginia, is sweet.
Virginia came in as a financial-exploitation case. Apparently some men had bilked her out of $25,000, promising that in exchange they would cut down some trees in her yard. When she told her church friends how thankful she was and showed them the empty yard, her friends called us, because no one remembered seeing any trees there in the first place.
Let me not be blinded by the glare of the spotlight
or distracted by the tangle of plastic tubes,
the stink of anesthesia waiting in its multi-chambered
monolith of sleep. Let me stand beside the patient
and look into his eyes. Let me say, we will take care of you.
Let me understand what it is to be overcome by fear.
Let me secure my mask and turn to the counting and opening,
the writing down. Let me watch closely and, if I have to,
a treasury of compelling stories and poems.
Includes The Resilient Heart , Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma and Confessions of a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Drug Addict. Foreword by Maureen Bisognano, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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