It’s important how it goes–end of life.

I’ve delivered a lot of bad news.

I’m used to pronouncing death. Several times per shift.
Resuscitation for an hour. Calling the time.
I’m expected to keep going with my day; I’m behind.
It’s hard to remember the families, but they remember me.

All I feel is fatigue.

When my dad’s time came, I was the one who had to tell him
he was dying. I had to do it in front of my family.
“Do you want dialysis?” was all the doctor said.
That doctor had no clue how to deliver the news.

We brought dad home, with hospice. I flew home to cover
my shifts. My brother called soon after–
“You should come back.”

It was the longest I’d gone without sleep. I’ll never forget
the support I received.
My seat, upgraded to first class, by my brother.
Early morning, whiskey in hand, able to close my eyes.
My shift (the one everyone dreads), covered by my friend.

Dad had been unresponsive for three days. I hadn’t slept
for five; I was working within the family. My brother and I
were both there when I realized his breathing was slowing.
Longer pauses…only pulses…breathing stopped.

All I said was “7:ll”

I looked like I was fine. When I called hospice, I couldn’t say
my own phone number.

It’s important how it goes–end of life.

Notes from the interview that inspired this poem:

“I’d like the poem to be about what it’s like to give bad news,” he said. This person was an emergency medicine physician. Having worked in level I trauma centers, he had to deliver a lot of bad news. He told me about one of his first experiences losing a patient. She was an 18-year-old female who had been in a car accident. “When I lose patients, and then have to deliver bad news to the families, I’m expected to just keep going with my day. All I feel is fatigue.” When his own dad was dying, he had to be the one to deliver the bad news to him, in front of their family. He was a third-year resident on a string of night shifts. He told me how this experience had impacted him. “I’ve always been passionate about end-of-life going well,” he said. “I understand this in a deeper way now, and from the other side, first-hand.”

Interviewee: Anonymous, Physician
Listener Poet: Jenny Hegland

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