"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
It's 2:00 am, and the fluorescent bulbs flicker gently overhead along the quiet hallways of the intensive-care unit.
Tonight I'm the ICU resident on call, and the weight of that title sits heavily on my shoulders. My team is in charge of keeping our critically ill patients safe from harm overnight. Although the supervising physician is only a phone call away, I'm the acting team lead for any codes called during the night on patients elsewhere in the hospital who may need our life-support services. Code Blue: cardiac arrest. Code 66: anything else requiring assistance.
The metronomic beeping of the life-support machines keeps time as I blink the weariness from my eyes and share a few muted smiles with the nurses who work tirelessly alongside me while the rest of the world sleeps.
Then the call comes over the intercom: Code 66, unit 74, Highwood Building.
Two years ago, I'd just begun my new post as clinical supervisor at the caregiver-support center at a large medical institution. The center offers emotional and practical support to families of patients who are dealing with serious illnesses and hospitalizations.
In my short time there, I'd already encountered many memorable clients, but somehow I felt a special connection with one woman, Maria. A small, intense woman with piercing dark eyes, she often came to see us between her visits to her husband, Felipe, who lay gravely ill in the hospital's cardiac intensive-care unit.
Always with Maria on her visits to Felipe were their three twentysomething daughters, Rosa, Alicia and Blanca. The family's closeness touched me--especially when it became clear that Felipe's health was going downhill.
T-cell lymphoma in the brain
MRI flooded with glaring, white-hot streaks
Devouring cerebellum and frontal lobe
A scrawled note in his chart:
"difficult and disinhibited
At the sight of our starched white coats
He reaches shakily for the toothbrush on his meal tray
And begins to frantically scrub at his teeth
Wide dark eyes boring straight though us
He does not want us there.
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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