The past two weeks at my “real job” have held some of the most emotionally, physically, and intellectually taxing shifts that I have had in years. For ten to twelve hours at a time, I felt like I was quickly stomping out one fire only to hear the desperate cries of need at another. I would speed walk from one frighteningly sick person to the next, juggling the not-so-sick ones along the way, just as several other physicians and midlevels were doing the same. There was never enough of any of us or nurses or techs to go around. At the end of one shift, I actually thought, “That must be just a teeny tiny bit of what it’s like to work in a war zone.”
People these days like to think that doctors are just in it for the money, that we don’t care about the patients, that we don’t want to heal them of their ills. Hearing someone say this always feels like a spike to my heart. I never leave the hospital alone. Always…always… at least one patient walks through those sliding doors with me, hovering in my thoughts, weighing on my heart. Sometimes one holds my hand and lifts me up and carries me part of the way. But always I leave with at least one. A fair number of them have fallen away over the years. They no longer pop in in the wee hours of the morning to steal sleep or haunt dreams, but a few stick around to visit occasionally— most often when they see that they’ll have good company in others. A few nights here lately there’s been a regular five a.m. crowd.
I work through and past such times in various ways. Writing is one of them. Here’s the snippet of a poem they’ve given me this time.
I carry you all on my back,
Stones smoothed by the Stream of my Worries,
In an Ancient wicker basket
From Lifetimes ago.
Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts. If you enjoyed it, please let me know. You may find my other work on Medium, on Facebook, on Twitter @estora_adams, and on Instagram where my handle is EstoraAdams.