PHARM Podcast 185 How we care for each other By Mitochondrial Eve
I talk a lot about the healthcare experience from the perspective of a bedside nurse in the ICU. I have a story about being a patient.
— Mitochondrial Eve (@BrowofJustice) July 28, 2017
How We Care for Each Other – by Mitochondrial Eve
Remembering the last time I held a heart in my hands today.
The solid weight of it, more—dense—than I expected, the color.
Wrong somehow. Not beefy red, closer to purple, but also closer to grey.
I see it all in a blink.
Blood a line then a pool and a spray. The crunch through the chest.
All sound suddenly muted.
My hands encased in tight gloves. I don’t remember when.
Later when I took the gown off there was a cut on the back of my neck from the velcro.
The paddles. So small. Heavier than I expected.
Shock, shock, shock. Quivering.
Take it in your hands. For the heart is an organ of fire.
Such is life distilled to a blink and the slow muted sound becomes a roar.
Nothing has ever been so loud and so close.
His eyes deep brown behind glasses, intense behind the mask,
hands warm through the gloves. Hands to beat this toughing flesh,
color deepening with each beat, pericardium dulling in the air.
It takes a surprising amount of force yet at the same time—gently, gently.
The bed is rolling.
I don’t remember getting on, but I’m kneeling on the side,
one leg braced on the rail, a nurse beside me with a hand firmly on my back, surgeon across from me, jogging, gesturing. The brown eyes are his eyes.
Hallway turn hallway doors hallway turn elevator … beat, beat, beat … elevator turn hallway turn hallway door … beat, beat … hallway hallway hallway hallway turn hallway turn door. Running. Not jogging. Running.
Everything disappears. A pair of hands and a pair of hands.
Blood. The flesh between them. Her hand on my back.
Sound of his voice muffled behind the mask.
All we could do. A brother in the waiting room, I remembered later.
The cap he wore. A Cowboys fan.
The floor shuddered beneath me when I stood again. I made it to the hallway before I sat on the floor. I could hear the OR chatter. Sweat pouring. Breath in gasps. Still in garb. I looked down. Gown and gloves and spatter.
Tried to rip them off, tugging, then finally my scrubs streaked with sweat beneath.
Washed my hands at the sink. Washed them again. Washed them again. Washed them again. Silent in the hallway now. I wish I was still inside.
If this was a movie I would be able to see my face in a mirror, see my own eyes. But this is real, and the only thing in front of me are boxes and boxes of gloves. Masks. Packages of scrub. Hallway a vague yellow brown.
The rooms are named. Number 6 has a handmade sign—Eyeberia.
Move and the hallway moves with me as I continue down the corridor. Turn. Cross the blue line. Group at the front desk. Phone ringing. Laughter.
I nod. One of them whistles, gesturing to my face. Oh. The mask.
I try to pull it off. It’s secure. My shaking hands won’t pull the ties.
He steps to me, a tug, another tug, and it falls free.
I pull off the cap. I don’t remember putting it on.
He pulls both from my fingers. “Come here,” he says. I shake my head.
“No, come here,” and his friend has a hand under my elbow.
Dr. Williams on his nametag. I go with them. A break room. A chair. “Sit here.”
I do. “Here,” a gatorade I can’t open it so he does.
I realize this is caring. This is how we care for each other.
I raise the bottle to my mouth and drink. So thirsty. After I drink half the bottle he hands me a towel. I wipe my face of sweat and realize it’s not all sweat.
Some of it is tears. His friend. Sitting across from me. I know her face. A surgeon. What kind, I can’t remember. It bothers me that I can’t remember.
The last patient we shared—Ah. That’s right. House fire.
This is Tara. Tara, who wears a size 6 glove and has the neatest suture technique I’ve ever seen. Her face is kind. Freckles across her nose.
“You could do surgery on me,” I say.
She smiles, but there’s something behind it.
“You don’t need surgery,” she says. “You are well.”
She grabs my empty hand and squeezes. “You did well.”
I nod, unable to speak. Her face dissolves behind molten glass.
A tighter squeeze, and we sit a moment.
That moment could have been forever.
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