I first met the father at that code blue.

Compressions stopped.

His heart also, I knew.

Another page, another call.

I went down to the ER.

And met the son there too.

Three liters nasal cannula,

Anxious and scared.

Mom at the bedside

Shocked and aware.

Death in the air, COVID on the floor.

Tragedy behind the door.

Lives changed forever more.

One man lay here waiting.



Not fine.

Another put on work clothes.




One family longing.

Another unassuming.

A day would change their lives.

The waiting man now tearful.

The working man now gone.

The yellow man was crying — he knew where his liver came from.

Just a girl with a scrape,

No one thought much of her.

“My hand hurts more,

I’ve burned my knee before.”

“I was on a long ride,

Skidded on the bridge,

Took the turn too fast,

Pavement hit me last.”

“My wrist hurts more.

I can’t move my thumb.


One day I looked upon a stair,

Yearning to see just how far,

This path could take me if I dared,

To climb its never ending stair.

But then I saw so close to me,

An image of what used to be.

Shining oh, so crystal clear,

As if were whispering in my ear:

“Stay here, don’t dare to climb the stair.”

“Your place is where you traveled here.”

Then I resolved without delay,

To fix my gaze and turn away.

The path behind and stairs before,

The whisper heard nevermore.

I speak behind a mask.

I smile with my eyes.

You nod and smile back.

I see it, I surmise.

I need the personal touch,

instead I keep my space.

You need relational warmth,

instead of another blue face.

This mask may keep me safe,

or it may be iatrogenic.

My soul lacks connection -

No wonder many have depression.

School is in session,

First week: infection.

Football quarantined for poor discretion.

Weeks passed -

still in class,

risk accepted.

There was a man,

Strapped by his right hand,

Arm extended with hands clenched,

He held the rope with a tighter fist.

I panned my gaze,

I saw his left,

Another rope, another fist.

Sinews straining and shoulders stitched.

His gaze roamed from side to side.

Two things he loved on left and right.

His calling, yes, on either side.

Divided not, his fists collide.

He’s old.

His daughters on the line.

His medical students listen quietly.

His attending is on trial.

He isn’t doing well.

The treatment hasn’t worked.

He’s going down hill.

We look and we search.

Try this. Try that.

I read on the internet it worked.

But no one on the web,

told me that death lurked.

It would be a simple story,

if only the lungs were sick.

Chemo. Rad. Cancer.

His flame burns down the wick.

The conversation ends.

No one calls him out.

An extra person was on the line.

Death brings the final doubt.

“I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“We’ll check in on Mr. CB’s labs.”

“The consult should be back.”

“Have a good night.”

An email received.

Students forbidden to see.

Patients now concealed.

Was that miskeyed?

A new week begins.

New patients to see.

COVID is here, yet not me.

The world shuts down.

Physicians burn out.

I have gas in the tank.

Why cannot I help out?

In one short year,

I am the frontline.

That patient is mine.

My feet in the fire.

I wait for this day.

Long to fulfill my call.

When crisis strikes,

Physicians stand tall.

Before I started surgery,

I took plenty of time to read.

I wrote each day.

I laughed and played,

My sons woke up and saw me.

Once I started surgery,

They told me to come,

I stayed long.

I did my job.

My sons in bed when I went home.

Now I’m done with surgery,

I’m glad for it you see.

I lived behind the red line.

Scrubbed and gowned in time.

My sons still know me.


I’m Ben and a medical student in Kansas City. Medicine is often said to be an art and a science. MedMusings evokes the art.

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