Saturday, November 5, 2011

I Could

Adapted from the poem "I Could"
Cook County hospital 1998
Breast center

Who's next?

He calls to the residents, as if he is a bank teller waiting to accept his next deposit. He walks from room to room with the medical students trailing behind. He enters the cubicle without taking the time to introduce himself. He touches breast tissue with precision and tenderness. Yet to put his arm around the shoulder of a suffering patient would be considered to intimate.

How could you?

He stops momentarily to scan a mammogram. He is decisive and arrogant.

You will need a biopsy!

The crying woman looks up and her trembling finger points to the adjacent light box where last years mammogram sits uninspected.

Oh. Those calcifications were present before. I guess we can wait on the biopsy.

Her head is now in her hands. She doesn't look up.

How could you?

I wince as he shoves the needle into her breast. Her face contorts and a tear roles down her cheek. As he smirks, I find myself more worried about the amount of local anesthetic than the accuracy of his technique. He high fives the resident.

We got it

How could you?

A young woman sits on a chair with her two children playing on the floor with a set of checkers. He buries his head in her chart as he delivers bad news.

Your lymph nodes are positive.You will need chemotherapy.

He hands her a referral and leaves the room without waiting for questions.

How could you want to be a doctor?

He asks me in my dreams.

Because you will hurt for each and every patient who walks through your doors.

And in my dreams, I scream the answer, ablating his image from the depths of my being.

How could I not?

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