His eyes were closed, but I opened them

Shined a light from the tip of my pen,

Closed them again, but they wouldn’t stay

I found myself trapped in his unseeing gaze

Pupils blown up as I’d not seen before

Cold, dark, and soulless; the pen dropped to the floor

Everything I knew flew out of my head

This is what it looked like, when someone was dead

His chest didn’t move, and his eyes didn’t blink

I tested his reflexes, but not so much as a wink

I tried for a pulse, but there was nothing at all

The nurse looked in: “There’s family to call.”

So I covered the man with a clean, white sheet

Walked out of the room, as my job was complete

The phone call was short, yet it somehow seemed longer

I was embarrassed to struggle; I’d thought I was stronger

I signed the all papers and initialed the charts,

Recorded the exact time when his heart had stopped

Went back upstairs, but didn’t make it two flights

When my heart started clawing, putting up its own fight,

Banging on its chest cage, trying to come out

No idea what it wanted, but it filled me with doubt

Had I done something wrong? Was there something I’d missed?

Did he pass as he wanted? Was it just as he’d wished?

I broke down crying, in the stairwell, alone

Fumbling with buttons I couldn’t see on my phone

Just to hear a voice, to hear them tell me it’s okay

Hear them say, don’t worry, it’s another hospital day

But my fingers weren’t working, so no voice appeared

And I turned to the wall to hide my face, full of tears,

Until I’d cried it out, when I turned to the steps,

Tried to go forward, but plunged back into the depths

Of darkness, despair; I was lost in a maze

Unfamiliar and scared, a frightening craze

How could I go on, with this burden of guilt?

It was as if I’d pulled a trigger, his blood I’d spilt

I knew it was nonsense, in the back of my head,

But nonsense is convincing, when the subject is death!

So I took a deep breath and tried to calm down

Forced away guilt; otherwise, I’d drown

I thought of my mother, who holds her head high,

She knows how it feels to watch someone die

But she never falters, she can stay strong

When others are lost, she helps them carry on

And then I thought of the others still in my care

And my teammates and students. They needed me there.

There’d be time for tears, but this wasn’t it

Get my head back in the game, had no time to just sit

So I ran back upstairs, only five minutes late

Rounds had just started; we were on bed #8

Thus my day continued, and I carried on

Forcing myself to, somehow, stay strong

This is the cycle, when somebody dies,

Stay strong, move on — and don’t look into their eyes

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