Archives for posts with tag: doctors

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The Caregiver
by Alarie Tennille

I’m wearing a mask
like I’m part of the medical team.

For the second time
in three days,
I’m sitting on a gurney,
watching my blood pressure creep up, up, up
on a monitor
as I’m prepped
for surgery. Try taking
deep breaths.
No help.

Then she arrives
with her I’m here for you smile
and reassuring hand on my arm.
“Would you like a warm blanket?”

Nothing short of waving a magic wand
could be better. Why must operating
rooms be icy? She tucks me in.

In my mind, she’s the same nurse
who went through the same steps
48 hours ago, but I know she isn’t.
Slowly and clearly she explains
what will happen next. Asks,
“Any questions?”

She sees me –
an intelligent human being,
a rational adult who minutes ago
felt like a weepy five-year-old,
but who now wants to show
this mom surrogate
how brave I can be.

Photo by Woraphon Banchobdi, used by permission. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As my poem indicates, the wonderfully efficient and calming nurse represented her type. The nurse I had two days earlier also performed her job like I was the only person needing her complete attention in that moment. I’m sure they told me their names, but I wasn’t in any shape to remember those. If either one happens to see this, I hope they’ll feel the gratitude. You can tell from my recent photo what part of me required surgeries, though I’ve been having fun telling people I’ve joined a pirate’s crew. For those curious to know the real story, let’s just say I knew it wasn’t going to be a routine cataract removal. The nearly two-hour operation resulted in complications requiring a second, longer, emergency surgery and a much longer recovery period. It’s been several months now, and I’m just starting to feel human again, but wear the patch to spare you.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alarie Tennille graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her latest poetry collection is Waking on the MoonHer first collection, Running Counter Clockwise, was first runner-up for the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence (both books available on Amazon). She was recently honored to receive a 2020 Fantastic Ekphrastic Award from The Ekphrastic Review. Please visit her at alariepoet.com to check out her blog and learn more about her writing.

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At the Hospital
by Leslie Sittner

The ambulance pulls into a dedicated emergency bay, and I’m carefully and quietly unloaded and wheeled into the small receiving area—no waiting room! The EMTs give my information to a masked person who wheels me into an adjacent private room. Everywhere it is quiet. Lights dim. Barely audible footfalls. No frantic, frenzied, dramatic emergencies. Everyone covered in fresh-looking PPE. I realize that I’ve done the right thing. I relax a bit. Soon the various nurses and eventually the physician attend to my three broken nasal blood vessels with calm reassuring descriptions of the next procedural steps. Three super-sanitary hours later, I am released with protocols to follow-up with an ENT for a TeleHealth visit.

This frightening emergency event was treated with the most personal and caring attention and best professional efforts that anyone could hope to experience.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Unloaded at one dedicated ambulance ER bay.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not only do we honor our first responders for their bravery and service but all family, friends, and neighbors deserve our gratitude for their generosity, care, and concern. My neighbor retrieved me from the hospital and brought me safely home; her husband calmed the dog, let her out, and fed her after cleaning and disinfecting the bathroom and putting the bloody towels in the washer to soak.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Hospital lawn sign acknowledging all within.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. She is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog while compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.

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A Family of Doctors Treating Covid
by Margaret Duda

My son, my daughter, and my son-in-law don PPEs,
Examine patients, offer assurances, ignore risks to treat,
Then come home to undress, wash clothes, and shower,
Before feeding families also dependent on their care.
Already exhausted, they assist children in virtual classes,
Call others in college, offer spousal support to those they love.
On family zooms, I see lines under their eyes and furrowed brows,
As they join games of Boggle and wish they were in bed asleep.
The days turn into weeks which turn into months of detailed
Tele-med calls to patients at high risk, long shifts at hospitals.
I wait and hear about millions infected, thousands dying, and worry,
Worry about my children working through a pandemic to save lives.

IMAGE: Minerva, Roman goddess of medicine. Detail from painting Pallas and the Centaur by Sandro Botticelli (1482). 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Mother to four and grandmother to seven, I worry about everyone in my large family, but that is what mothers do.  I have not been able to hug them since Christmas because of my age and risk factors, but am trying to stay well for myself and for them. I know the doctors did not dream of being in this position someday, and they work with doctors who have gotten ill themselves. I cannot imagine the courage it takes for them just to go to work. Most patients do not realize they have other lives, where their families depend on them as well. I pray for an end to the pandemic so that I can breathe again.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A professional author, photographer, and jewelry designer, Margaret Duda has had her work published in The Kansas Quarterly, The Michigan Quarterly Review, Crosscurrents, The South Carolina Review, The Green River Review, Fine Arts Discovery, The Green River Review, and Venture.  One of her short stories made the distinctive list of Best American Short Stories. She also had a play produced in Michigan, has had several books of nonfiction published, and took travel photos for the New York Times for 10 years. She lives in Pennsylvania and is now working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town, and is writing poetry to find a shred of sanity during this pandemic.

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House Sparrows
by Kelley White

–after Mary Oliver

–for Annie, Janine, Frances, Kathleen & Linda

You do not have to be brave.
You do not have to come into work
when the disease flares
or chemotherapy
leaves you retching.
You only have to let the dear spirit of your
body heal
when it heals.
Tell me about your pain, yours, and I will listen
despite mine.
Meanwhile this life goes on.
Meanwhile the children laugh and the sweet bubbles of
their laugher
are singing across the ghetto
over abandoned houses and crack vials,
over the empty lots and projects.
Meanwhile the brown and gray sparrows, busy in the dull
gray sky
are building their nests.
I know you, I think of you living alone,
I praise your hope and dedication,
I watch you work like the sparrows, steady and
faithful,
building and rebuilding your peace
in the anger of life.

Published in Philadelphia Poets, July 2008

PHOTO: Sparrow building a nest. Photo by Mehul Agrawal, used by permission. 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This older poem came to mind when I began reading the wonderful work in the PRIME MOVERS Series. Many of my co-workers, the mainstays of the urban neighborhood health center where I have worked for nearly three decades, are older women with underlying health conditions. (Actually, that group includes me.) Throughout the pandemic they have continued to arrive daily to serve their duties as the unsung workers in the health field—reception staff, medical record clerks, medical assistants, telephone operators—often needing to take several types of public transportation. Many are well past retirement age (two are in their eighties!) but are still the major wage earners in their families. They face anxious and challenging patients with few thanks. I hope I remember to respect and thank them.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This 1989 photograph shows a pregnant me (right) with one of my favorite medical assistants. We worked together from 1983 till about 1990 in an urban community health center. Remarkably, I still work with a medical assistant who was at the center several years before I joined, which is nearly 40 years ago. I spent 1983-2008 at a federally qualified health center in a tough part of Philadelphia then moved back to my home state, New Hampshire, to be near my mother in the last decade of her life, working at a rural FQHC from 2008-2018. I never thought I’d return to Philadelphia but after my mother’s death at age 91, I found myself with grandchildren in the city and returned to the original health center, finding an aging but still dedicated staff and now see many grandchildren of my original patients.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

PHOTO: The author with granddaughter Evelyn.

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First Birth (after Sharon Olds)
by Kelley White

They taught us little, and what they taught us
I had not learned, so I just took it as it came:
slippery, the naked body blue-grey, greased,
slipping as I turned it in my hands, blood
rushing dark and clotting at my feet, the twisted rope
unearthly white and pulsing under that too-bright
glare, little lips pinking and the small mouth
opening to a cry, arms flailing, fingers spread
chest flaring at my wet gloved touch scrotum
shrunken knees flexed the nurse reaching
to stamp the sole blue as his mother’s thumb,
I sucking and squirting with the basting bulb
my mask wet, then the dry hot lamp the wrapping
the wet gloves and blood-soaked gown pulled
from my body, my face free, hands bare
to hold that too sweet pinked-up bundle
beside the mother’s swamped face:
I signed on for the duration.

Previously published in Lips 2005 and Referential 2014

 Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is about one of the often joyful places where medical people wear masks, Labor & Delivery. (Odd, the first face a newborn sees may very well be wearing a mask.) I was named “Coronavirus Crisis Coordinator” at the small health center in inner-city Philadelphia, where I have worked for several decades. On inventory, May 1, we have 26 isolation gowns, 8 regular surgical masks, and 10 N95 masks (construction grade, not medical grade: I traded toilet paper for them with the construction workers replacing the sewer and water lines in my street when they had to stop work in mid-March as non-essential; they left a gaping crater behind). Many of our supplies (gloves, masks, thermometers) have been stolen. I am angry when I see people out and about with medical-grade masks on (though grateful they are wearing masks). I’ve made more than 100 cloth masks on a toy Hello Kitty sewing machine out of scraps left over from craft projects. I’ve run out of cloth. And thermometers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are Toxic Environment (Boston Poet Press) and Two Birds in Flame (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.