White Coat Underground

Journeys

On July 4th at 5 a.m., I’m loading the family into the car and driving very far away, where cellphones, pagers, and most critically the internet, do not work. Blogging has been very hard for me lately. I love writing, but due to work and family mishegos it’s been hard to keep up with the posting. I’m hoping a stint up in the woods providing medical supervision to 400 souls will be rejuvenating. While I’m gone, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite posts about the human side of medicine. I hope you enjoy reading them again, or for the first time. –PalMD

I met this beautiful woman the other day. She had a sad, glowing smile, was dressed impeccably, and had this wonderful accent. I imagined her voice would be at home in some small corner of Europe where the pastries are always fresh, the coffee fragrant. She was sitting in a chair next to man, or what used to be a man. He lay stiffly in a bed like a bundle of fallen sticks—one of the sticks was being held gently by the beautiful woman, his wife. The room was too big for them, the high ceiling and white walls almost deafeningly empty.

They belonged to another time, this couple. The light poured through the window, stopped by a single IV pole which left a long, thin shadow on the wall, like a tree in winter. I pictured them in a different light, one a little richer, maybe browner, the colors subdued but present, not washed out like this day. They must have held hands then, too, but less delicately, with less fear. The young doctors stood by, also dwarfed by the room, but somehow less out of place. It’s not just that they were doctors, and this a hospital—they were more a part of this life, this place, this time. They were near the beginning and middle of their journeys, not the end. It was palpable. They thought, “where might I be tomorrow? In bed yet? Answering a call? Drinking?” The questions hanging over the couple in the room were, “Will I be tomorrow? Are there any left? Why?”

It’s strange—to be in the middle point of my own journey, surrounded by people nearly at the end, or perhaps past the end. Some live for the moment, never thinking it will end. Some mourn for the sepia-past that never was. But mostly I think they just cling to each other and to the moments, waiting, unsure, and watching as we middle-folk go about as if there will always be another day, another cup of coffee, another kiss.

Comments

  1. #1 D. C. Sessions
    March 28, 2009

    But mostly I think they just cling to each other and to the moments, waiting, unsure, and watching as we middle-folk go about as if there will always be another day, another cup of coffee, another kiss.

    And there will. Maybe not mine, maybe not yours — but tonight when you look at your sleeping daughter, remember that there will.

  2. #2 Comrade PhysioProf
    March 28, 2009

    Dude, that was fucking beautiful! You really can write!

  3. #3 mezzobuff
    March 28, 2009

    That was beautiful. Thankyou.

  4. #4 Danimal
    March 28, 2009

    I was getting ready to post a comment, but then saw CPP already said what I wanted to. Minus the expletive.

  5. #5 D. C. Sessions
    March 28, 2009

    I was getting ready to post a comment, but then saw CPP already said what I wanted to. Minus the expletive.

    Which expletive did CPP leave out?

  6. #6 Larry Ayers
    March 28, 2009

    Very touching and eloquent! No expletives needed…

  7. It’s good to know that physicians think in these terms. Sometimes those of us on the receiving end of your talents see you as clinical professionals who rarely reflect on the lives they impact. You simply blew that image out of the water and that’s a good thing.

    - Suzanne

  8. #8 Marc Abian
    March 29, 2009

    Ok, that’s it. I’m going to do something today.

  9. #9 Matthew
    March 29, 2009

    I spent two months at the side of my closest friend, thinking about our tomorrows. It was a tough case, but she kept getting better. One more week, maybe two, and she would have been out, ready to start living again.

    And about a week ago, the tomorrows disappeared.

  10. #10 Danimal
    March 29, 2009

    Matthew, been there done that. Lost one of my friends last year at the ripe old age of 47. But in this case (my friends) it was entirely unexpected.

  11. #11 Danio
    March 29, 2009

    Thanks for this reflection, Pal. I wonder from time to time about the emotional impact of outliving most of peers, spouse, siblings, sometimes even children, even as one is expending considerable effort it must take to keep pace with the world and all of its technological, social, and political states of being. It must be increasingly difficult not to feel like an anachronism. As the mother of two very hip, connected elementary school students, however, I’m already having trouble keeping up with the trends, and I know my own obsolescence is inevitable at some point.

    I have written before about serving as a genetic conduit between generations, but I find it equally important to help keep the older members of my family connected to the ‘now’, and feeling as relevant as possible in this fast-paced world, because one day, way before i’m ready for it, that’s going to be me. Life is short. Damn short.

  12. #12 DLC
    March 29, 2009

    Well-written.
    We are all on that conveyor belt that leads to the graveyard.
    No getting off, no going back.
    Best to live the best life you can, while you can.

  13. #13 Arikia
    March 30, 2009

    This is beautiful.

  14. #14 art
    April 2, 2009

    There is an expectancy to life that measures the relative values of our futures, and when that measurement lessens, the present gains in value. It’s not that we of a certain age never think about the end – it’s because for all intents and purposes, the future is here and now.

  15. #15 Noadi
    July 8, 2009

    That was amazingly beautiful. You’ve got me all teared up again.

  16. #16 Catharine
    July 8, 2009

    You are a brilliant writer and you have a heart of gold.

  17. #17 Chaitanya
    July 17, 2009

    Beautiful…Each and every word of it!!