"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
July first Fellow,
a pager blares announcing
my initiating consult, a 29-year-old
(just my age)
and a first-time seizure
while receiving an infusion
of experimental treatment.
When I arrive
she's already gotten
two milligrams of ativan
dilantin load is hanging
and I examine
a somnolent young woman
now coming 'round,
could be my friend, my sister, me,
Melissa Zhu Murphy
On Mother's Day 2007, as I was finishing my freshman year at Vanderbilt University, I joined my parents for a warm, happy reunion in an Italian restaurant, celebrating both the day and the completion of my first year of premedical studies.
My father was blissfully breathing in the steam wafting up from his ravioli in lobster cream sauce as my mother prepared to dig into an enormous plate of basil penne pasta with spicy meatballs.
I took a bite of crusty Italian bread and lifted a forkful of manicotti to my mouth, getting ready to describe how hard I'd had to study for my biology and chemistry finals. Then I realized that something was wrong.
I softly scrub blood from the teeth of a man who died moments ago. From the chair where I sat quietly writing nursing notes while he quietly ended, my patient's sallow skin and sunken cheeks looked so peaceful. But the weeks of stagnant residue on his teeth bothered me.
To brush the teeth of someone who was in the process of dying would have contradicted my orders to provide comfort care, and my own good sense. So I waited until he took his last breaths before I closed my computer screen and gathered my tools--washcloth, water, toothbrush.
I brush now, so briefly, for the pride of this man I didn't know, and I brush for the family that I wish was here to care about him. He does have family--it is they who authorized removing his life support, in keeping with the wishes expressed in his living will. Their brief go-ahead over the phone satisfied their legal obligations, but their absence during his actual passing has left me feeling oddly confused.
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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