Dementia

MY BRILLIANT, BEAUTIFUL, WIFE IS DISAPPEARING
STRICKEN
FRONTOTEMPORAL DEMENTIA

NOW I AM ALONE, CAN I HELP OTHERS AND COMFORT?

HOW CAN I CARE WHEN I AM ALONE?

I NEED TO BE LOVED AS I WALK THE LONELY PATH
TO MY DEATH

HOPE GROWS
I WILL FIND LOVE AGAIN
ENERGY WILL RETURN
I WILL HEAL OTHERS.

Gerald Lazarus, MD
Faculty Member

A Blessing in Disguise

I did not know then
What sacrifice would look like

To pursue my dreams
While evolving from old wounds

Loss and forgone love
Drawn out by this pandemic

Stoics had known best
Master loneliness they said

The grace of being
Forced to confront inner worlds

For those in training
Must learn to heal themselves too.

Christina LaGamma
Student

Who remembers to call the family?

Four hours after the surgery should have ended, my mother paced anxiously. “Should I call?” Not allowed in the hospital, we received no updates during the procedure. “They’ll call if something is wrong.” “I don’t want to annoy the doctors.” Grandma was already in recovery, it turned out. No one had bothered to tell us.

Allison Neeson, BS
Student

A Month of Haikus

A new month begins,
pandemia continues,
I long for an end.

Writer’s block struggles,
so I puzzle with haikus
for poetry month.

What has been unmasked?
Each day brings new surprises
and unwelcome truths.

Disobedient
dreams haunt my subconscious. I
can’t escape COVID.

A month of haikus,
finger counting syllables,
what will mark days now?

Trisha K. Paul
Resident

ICU Redux

She looks the same, despite many years.
Still young and still tired

as she was in 2005, when I met
her and her son.

His story a tapestry weaving
through so many ICU rooms since that day.

Recognition hits us.
She points out his “first” room.

A sudden hug, ignoring masks.
I don’t pull away.

Wynne Morrison, MD, MBE
Faculty Member

Family Time

School is now virtual, her kids are always home
Jobs are now uncertain, her livelihood a slippery prize
They say quarantine, they say family time
Her black eye and bruises, “just new make-up tricks mummy is trying out”
She holds them tight, her tiny little kids
Too young to already know the sounds of abuse

Jane-Frances Aruma
Student

My Pandemic Baby

She didnt know she was being, born in a pandemic,
a world where there would be no faces.
Where smiles wont prevail.
Where handshakes will be scary, and hugs would be scarce.
She only knew the warmth of the womb and,
now here she was in this cold dark world.
This cold dark world.

Saba Fatima, MD
Faculty Member

An Infectious War

Cough, sneeze, sniffle. Everyone is suspicious. At the grocery store, the bank, the gym. COVID-19 is everywhere. Invisible but ever-present. Waiting to capitalize on the next victim. Respiratory droplets, aerosolized, on fomites. There’s no escape from this war. Masks, social distancing, hand washing – our only hopes. We are in this together. We must come together.

Logan Garfield
Student

Isolation

Isolated in my room, I cannot leave
Food and drink are brought to me
My breath is infectious, I must wear a mask
It’s getting lonely in here
My dog cries outside my door
I feel sick, but the sadness of this isolation drowns that
Three more days, one negative result
Freedom is so near

Amanda Rodriguez
Student

Routine Morning

At home, like always, hunched over my computer clicking through UWorld questions. Our dog curls around my feet to beg for attention and food. Voices drift over from my mom’s phone—another day, another Zoom funeral. Which one?, I think, as I sweep my faceshield and mask into my bag for another clinic halfday.


Chioma Ndukwe, MS3
Student

My first stroke patient

“COVID-19, alone, intubated.
Young Black Female,
BLM protests outside.
Significant anemia. Blood ordered post-procedure.
I check on her. Sedation wearing off.
I explain.
She panics.
“I never want blood!” she writes.
“Why?”
“Religious—Spiritual”
I panic.
RN, PRBC bag in hand.
“No blood,” I say.
I alert MD.
On rounds—
“Thank you, Dara,” she writes.”

Dara S. Farhadi, BS, MS
Student

Patients of Color #2

“Bad black mother”
She’s back again.
It’s her seventh child.
She’s positive for amphetamines, again.
HIV positive, no prenatal care, no insurance.
It’s 2 a.m. The baby is 3 months early.
It’s born — transferred to the NICU.
Mom is discharged.
“We’ll see her again,” my attending shrugs and turns to his computer.
We all failed her.

Roshan Bransden, MS4
Student

Despair

Fever, chest pain, shortness of breath. Death
Shackles, choking, gasping. Death
Centuries of invisible, invincible oppression

A tale of contagion and two viruses
For one- tests, treatments, vaccines, fueled by money
For the other- words and more words, running on empty

Change is coming.
Change is coming.
Change is coming today
No change is coming

Nasia Safdar, MD, PhD
Faculty Member

Not what we know, new hope

Focused in ED code stroke. Student standing nearby. Though busy and stressed, I called her over for short teaching. Both very appreciative. Students now not allowed. Not ignoring small opportunities with learners, family, friends that bring joy and purpose. May lose sight of true priorities while busy but don’t know when won’t have them anymore.

Kristie Chu
Fellow

White Enough

“Well, we’re just glad we switched to you as her PCP… Mom’s last doc was too Middle Eastern.”
Wordlessly, I gesture to my name badge: five Arabic syllables next to my white-passing face.
He shifts uncomfortably before leaning forward, determined to make a smooth recovery:
“No, I mean he was like… Middle Eastern Middle Eastern.”

Samer Muallem
Faculty Member

Essential

What keeps
the essential workers
essential?

We the intra-helpers,
the holders
of space. Lovers of
the unloved and unlovable. We
the givers of dream transfusions.
Volunteer souls.

Hope transplants.

Social workers
donning the same scrubs,
the same masks,
the same gear.

Turning to look
into the faces of fear
looking into
the faces of fear.

Steven T. Licardi, LMSW
Behavioral Health Clinician

Steel to Skin

You were excited to see me. And I? Your knee.
Propofol administered.
You called me a king; pride for me was heavier than the shackles removed.
I was envious.
We did not differ too much.
I have been on their treasure hunt for years.
Hopefully, one day, I jump through enough hoops to find my keys.

Medical Student

July 14, 2020: International Non-Binary People’s Day

I told them my name and preferred pronouns, they responded in kind.
“Pleasure to meet you.”
They said they volunteered teaching medical students about pronouns
And smiled saying, “I’m glad to see it’s working.”

“They are coming in to follow up on their chronic headaches.” I presented to my attending.
“What do you mean they?”

Jason Spicher
Medical Student

The First Patient

Gasping, “Something’s wrong …. lungs”
Southern visitor to ER up North.
Has COVID-19 arrived here?
Frightened, don PPE, too late.
Lips quiver behind N95 masks.
Family sent home to quarantine, intubated alone.
Last words, “Thank you… for what you do….. I hope….. you will be OK”
Great compassion. He fights but dies.
It’s not OK.

Alisa Hayes
Faculty Member

Touching patients in the time of COVID-19

It has been opined (by Doctors Osler, Lipkin, Charon, Ofri, and even Dr. Oz) that the “laying on of hands” by the physician during a therapeutic encounter with a patient is critical for establishing rapport and promoting healing; the so-called Loving Touch.

I am fearful that my elbow bumps are not up to the task.

Jeffrey G. Wong, MD
Faculty Member

“Rinse and Repeat”

Wake up, get up, login, treat
Hear their stories
Uncertainty, oppression, chaos, defeat
Fearful eyes, painful voices
Gulping reality one sip at a time like scalding coffee
Listen, support, find common ground
Fatigue rising, shields engaging, boundaries setting
Wake up, get up, login, treat

Israel M. Labao, MD, MPH
Resident

Pandemic

Do you have a fever?
No
Do you have any shortness of breath or trouble breathing?
No
Do you have any changes in your taste or smell?
No
Do you have any symptoms you want to talk about?
No
Do you have any questions for me?
My test came back positive, should I be worried?

Jiajun Li
Student

Masked

The world had changed
The masks I only used to see in the hospital
Are now commonplace in public
Everyone thinks so much is hidden behind the mask
But from experience, I know
It’s not as different as it seems
I can see still their smiles in their eyes

Jiajun Li
Student

Virtual Connections

Apart but still together
These connections already exist
We were just afraid to try something different
until there is no alternative
Some say there’s no replacement for the face-to-face
Some say the connection is weak
Not real, as its name would imply
But it turns out
Sometimes, an imitation
a Virtual connection is good enough

Jiajun Li
Student

This is Recovery

“Most people recover” they say “This virus is no big deal.”
I see recovered COVID patients everyday; heart failure, kidney failure, liver injury, pulmonary embolisms.
Do people know?
That this is recovery.
I drive home past packed restaurants and bars.
The hospital is full. So where will these people go when they are recovering?

Amanda F. Tompkins
Medical Student

The Masks We Wear

We all wear masks in this office.

Some are made from cloth, others woven from experience.

The patient’s experiences of discrimination, desperation and dismissal
casting his face in fear.

The physician’s experiences of listening, ignoring, and rejecting
hardening her face in false empathy.

My experience as powerless witness
painting my face in a silent scream.

Rebecca Allen
Medical Student

Happiness Reset 2020

Vacation “Home” for vacation,
Working in, for, and from “home.”
Cooking added dopamine in dishes,
Cleaning is a new mindfulness.
“Zoom” is a new craving,
“Facetime” with family and friends is my free CBT,
“Old Fashioned” “New Yorker” “Netflix” are chips of micro-happiness,
Ongoing systole for hedonic treadmill
is now replaced with COVIDiastole.
“COVID” is a “Midas touch.”

Vijay Rajput
Faculty Member

What Am I Missing?

Why do your lungs still look like this? Why does your heart still race like this? What am I missing? Who are you behind these closed eyes? How do I prepare your family for the cries? What am I missing? I see you every day yet feel you drifting further away. What am I missing?

Elena Zamora
Resident

In The Shadow of the Pandemic

Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer.
Think of disease, what comes to mind?
In Pandemics, we are forced to ration access to care.
With masks and protective equipment, we combat a virus.
But has this increased vigilance, made us partially blind.
A scourge still overlooked by society,
Substance use disorder, so many still suffering and dying.

Rebecca Hamburger
Student

Kultaj Kaleka, RN
Faculty Member

Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc
Faculty Member

The Veteran’s Wife

On worn waiting room chairs, I held her thin, papery hand- gold band secured between arthritic knots. “No, you can’t stay with him. No visitors.” Isolation, protocol, pandemic- excuses that could not excuse tearing apart the decades of tucked midnight embraces. Milky halos encompassing the blueness of her eyes. A blink, a departure, alone.

Rebecca Tuttle, MD MS
Faculty Member

Presentation

I have no idea,
It could be,
It is most likely,
Presentation is most consistent with.

You could have,
You might have,
You are at risk for,
You are diagnosed with.

We suggest,
We recommend,
We will order,
We prescribed.

Anything else I can help you with,
Do you have any questions…
How are you?

Hannah Mulvey Ferrera
Medical Student

First day of school

The box arrives after dark. Parts eagerly scattered across the floor. Fat black cushions. Gyrating legs. So many classic plastic wheels. Calling it an office chair is unimaginative. A throne? Facetious. A saddle, perhaps? Screws twisted. Joints locked. A lovingly assembled new home. I climb in and spin around, ready for the long journey ahead.

Benjamin French
Medical Student

One in a Million

POSITIVE.
A lightening bolt in my electronic health record.
Covid – still early, we know so little.
Masked, scrubbed, extra cautious.
Quarantine.
Temperature checks.
Symptom monitoring.
Worrying about exposed family.
Daily Health Department check-ins
The national numbers have reached one million.
Days pass, my birthday in quarantine
My daughter sends a cake.
I celebrate being okay.

Karen Szauter
Administrator

A Brief Reminder

“I’m a fighter,” she says, blisters across expanses of skin, like the illness is trying to climb its way out. “Remember this: surround yourself with the right people. Because I didn’t.”

Later, I stand on my balcony, alone. My hands are full, people I love available at the swipe of a finger. The world spins.

Jennifer Li
Medical Student

The Hoax

Stone-faced and somber, the new patient sat behind the partition with an untrusting glare. “Are you scared I’m gonna choke you?” “No sir, just trying to keep us both safe from the virus”. “Oh, that hoax everyone keeps talking about”? One side of his mouth curls upwards in amusement. Just another day in forensic psychiatry.

Scott Leary, MS4
Medical Student

When Bees Swarm

We can no longer stay here. It is not right.
Being treated by a different standard for bringing my own PPE.
But I want to protect myself, my patients, and my family.
Am I really doing wrong by advocating during a pandemic?
I want to fly with my swarm,
but where are they?

Juliette Perzhinsky, MD, MSc
Faculty Member

Auscultation

An unexpected gift, inadvertent sounds from unmuted classmates—
rhythms like palpitations as a car drives past his window,
a quiet voice asks what time she’d like dinner,
the stuttering of a chair pulled closer to the table,
fluttering of flipped pages, skittering steps of pets;
the small intimacies of our
virtuality

Elizabeth Jakubowski
Medical Student

Back to work

“ You must be frontline”
With guilt
“ I am doing televisits for now”
The hospital is eerie and quiet outside
Once inside
You forget
Residents crowd together
Affording comfort
And normalcy
You stand close to an upset father
To explain and assuage
On your way home
You are haunted by his maskless face

Madhura Pradhan, MD
Faculty Member

Fever

She can’t stay seated, fake lashes concealing tears.
Her husband is at home due to the pandemic restrictions.
Oh, my baby, she screams, aerosolizing her grief into the room.
The diagnosis slowly bruises her mind like leukemia into her son’s body.
He’s our youngest. He still sleeps with us.
She wishes he had COVID-19 instead.

Benjamin Drum
Resident

Flexed to Inpatient

I cut my nails to the quick that night. God forbid my body betray me or my family, virus somewhere I couldn’t scrub clean. The morning: first COVID patient, ICU transfer, her survival a blessing, her gratitude shattering. Remembering my oath, I leaned stethoscope close, listened, touched. Finally—home. Scalding shower. Called kids; dinner alone.

Sarah L. Clever, MD, MS, FACP
Faculty Member

Medical School in the COVID era

I wake up at 7:45. I shower while listening to two Teddy-Afro songs. I get dressed. I quickly type in the password to my computer and pull up my zoom. I yawn, sip my instant coffee, and glance over at the picture of me and my mom. I smile and turn on my camera.

Maranatha Genet
Medical Student

July Intern

We’re a month in, but I still don’t really know any of you.
“These people will become your family,” I’m told over and over. To be fair, I haven’t gotten to see my actual family outside of video chats, either, so maybe it’s still true.
The top one-third of your faces seem very kind, though.

Hannah R. Dischinger
Resident

Class of 2021

I am ready.
I have passed my exams and performed well in the core clerkships.
I am motivated, young, healthy.
Put me to work. I can help.
But I am stuck at home. Useless.
Quarantined with my knowledge and experience.
Mere months from finishing my training.
We are an untapped resource and we are ready.

Rachel Fields
Medical Student

Manifested Worry

Her pupils widen at his radiant coat,
And body winces at devices dangling about his throat.

Showing demeanor of an impending escape or brawl,
I’m sure her perspiration is mostly cortisol.

As previous traumas amplify current fears,
The only diagnostic tools he can rely upon are his ears.

Rachel Roy
Medical Student

One Step at a Time in NYC

Unwound, we were and still are unraveling. In many ways, we feel paralyzed in March forever.
There’s a fire burning in the distance. What has happened to my city? Try to stare at the screen. Distant sirens ring. Just try to focus. A three digit score can give you the world- what’s left of it.

Zoha Huda
Medical Student

ZoomMed: A Place to Meet New Friends?

Zoom. Botched audio, reactions delayed. The way “genuine” connections start these days.

Pre-med, curly hair, Atlanta – the topics of discussion. 1.5 hours, I realized I’d found a good person.

A person who’s genuine, kind, and shares quite a few interests of mine.
A person whose friendship I could see standing the test of time.

Sydni Williams
Medical Student

Sacrifices

I could list each sacrifice made studying medicine on my fingers. Late studying, lesser parties, fewer friends.

Now, I watch professionals self-isolate in garages. Others explain quitting. A mentor describes sinophobic experiences. My mother recovers to alleviate her coworkers’ burden. Friends attend morning funerals online, studying at night.

Sacrifice is too messy for one finger.

Shubhi Singh
Medical Student

Distance

Distance from each other…
But are we distant from the invisible virus?
Fighting a battle with an enemy with a new guise.
Will medical knowledge and technology change the course THIS time?
In the end, will this new enemy change the way of being…
Or maybe through these perils, we will understand our own essence.

Nivedita Thakur, MD
Faculty Member

Working Remotely….Month 5

It’s Monday morning and I must attend another Zoom conference of multiple heads on a monitor. Some participants don’t use video. Disrespectful? Bad WiFi? Not Dressed? Eating breakfast? Opportunity for multitasking? What’s the best way to engage remotely? On-line polling or breakout rooms? I feel desperate for a real connection, I need a hug.

Kathleen Nelson
Administrator

Tissue?

My patient who can’t speak can’t have her husband visit.
Her kidney is failing.
She started to cry.
I couldn’t give her a hug.
Between glasses, masks, a shield, I’m part of a faceless team.
A tissue passed between gloved hands serves as empathy.
Who gets used to this?
I don’t know that I can.

Jennifer Ferrante
Medical Student

The Advising Dean

I cannot wipe your tears on Zoom or place my hand on your shoulders as you tell me about the death. If I was in your presence, I would not be able to come by your side. I can only comfort you with my voice and teach you what I know about life and medicine.

Gauri Agarwal
Administrator

Outreach to Whom

Hello.

Hello, it’s strange. Visits over the phone.

How are you?

Ok. We haven’t talked since it started.

The children?

Trying their best.

I understand. Must be difficult. A lot of changes.

Yes. Too many changes. And you?

Safe. I hope you are as well. That’s why I’m calling. And my breathing is getting better.

Ann Lee
Faculty Member

The N95

Words escape in muffled
unintelligible sounds
with breath that’s
puffed and pushed
to pluck some meaning
from the noise.
Then sucking hard
to find the oxygen
inside the small blue crown
that sits upon my lips
and stains my cheeks
with pain in service
to my lungs
to stop the silent plague
from getting in.

Elizabeth Mitchell
Faculty Member

Clinic is more confusing

Unmasked in my office behind a closed door, I still feel safe. Beyond, into the aerosol wedged between us doctoring has become risky. Physical examination is now dangerous. Your masked fears and mine behind a faceshield, attend carefully to your story. What is your illness? Is it the new one? Or one we knew before?

Lara Ronan
Faculty Member

Rise

She lies in bed, chest rising and falling,
Her breath the sound of sweeping
Through glass shards.
On her window the patter
Of rain overlies a scene of budding
Leaves along the Huron.

This is how they pass.
In isolation.
The white gown
A forerunner to the shroud.
The last breaths turbulent
Before ascension.

Natalie Ailene Moreno
Medical Student

You Can’t Be Here

I’m sorry
You can’t be by your loved one’s side
You can’t be here
The virus looms here
You can’t give one last touch
You can’t give one last kiss
You will have to just watch
As breath slows, the heart slows
Then stops
You can’t be here
The Virus looms here.

Stephen Paul Wood
Administrator

Birdsong

Alone. Days, weeks, months. Intimate familiarity with architecture. Waking up to a repeat sing song, “I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared.”
Is that bird chirping my anxieties?
A world-wide panic attack. We are all alone together. Memories lay down on new moments and time becomes a thing to ponder. Weeks, months, years. Alone?

Chase Crossno
Faculty Member

July Attending 2020

Now with mask and face shield but no patient interactions for five months,
are these newly minted third year medical students ready for clerkships? Am I ready?
Imprinting: watch me closely but not too closely. Grow and be yourselves.
I pray, let the enthusiasm for the profession persist in these young minds and hearts.

Rebecca R. Pauly, MD
Faculty Member

COVID Storm

Prospects darkened pre-pandemic.
Foggy thoughts clouded the brilliant mind.
Weathered hurricanes that came with destructive fury but did depart.
Exempted by age. Isolated for safety. Exhausted by the marathon.
Surrounded with gale-force pressures. Tasks demanded. Teams prepared.
Would a hug have squeezed out the insidious inside?
Social distance maintained. Thunderous goodbye. Yet, unheard.
COVID slain.

Anonymous

Telehealth

Poke a hole in the sky, now
On air in mid-air,
Words warped by the warp.
Vexing window,
I should be grateful
For such sci-fi conjury.
Do what I can with invisible hands.
In a viral environ,
Reins far-flung up close.
On a phlegmatic circuit,
We look through the tunnel,
The simulacrum of healing.

Michael Stephen Miller, MD
Faculty Member

Student doctors and more

“Only” student doctors, always overseen.
Gained confidence from clerkships, no longer green.
But – “only” student doctors – and pulled from hospitals.
Look back on your journey! We’re not so brittle.
PPE donated, contacts traced, patients screened.
Though not in the hospital, we have done this and more,
After all, we are student doctors
And more.

David Gao
Medical Student

No One Untouched

“You need to come now.” I hang up the phone having just shattered Sam’s life and forty year marriage. He blames himself. If only he’d seen her at the nursing facility he would have known something was wrong sooner. But the virus kept him away. A death not due to COVID, but tainted by it.

Jennifer Caputo-Seidler
Faculty Member

Virtually Impossible Grief

My intern and I stand with an ipad to facetime the family -too far away, with travel restrictions. The grandmother starts to keen at the sight of her boy. He is too still now, fixed and dilated, only ventilator breaths. “He cannot be that!” broken English, broken hearts, broken composure and we all weep together.

Katherine Mason
Faculty Member

Making Do

A duckbill mask filled with the pale blue remnants of what were once elastic straps. Through punched holes, I weave thin strips of Coban and tie ugly little knots. My hair twists mutinously around these new, cumbersome straps. I swear I hear the sickly snap of each breaking strand. I never liked arts and crafts.

Nina Lemieux
Medical Student

Patient – from Latin for “one who suffers”

Can’t remember his name or surgery. Multiple pages about his irritated eyes. Internal bleeding patient took priority. Hours later I make it to his room. He looked at me through his eye watering. “I’m alright, Doc. I don’t have pain. But if you could give me something for my eye, I sure would appreciate it.”

Mike M Mallah
Resident

Providing Comfort

Hair cap, N95, surgical face mask, face shield.
My daily armor
I smile, but they cannot see.
My eyes are all that are available
No family, no friends allowed; they are alone and afraid.
Compassion and love
From my soul, through my touch and my eyes
I hope to provide.

Kavita Shah
Faculty Member

A Smile is Worth a Thousand Words

Good news is a breath of fresh air
A smile long gone, one can finally wear
Radiation complete
Baby can finally eat
Smoking – finally quit
Can walk again instead of sit
The mask that protects, also hides
The greatest emotion we feel inside
Joy – a contagion free of harm
Hidden now – replaced with alarm.

Maria Shields
Medical Student

Consult & Console

“Tell me about your pain?”
The tears fell.
I expected the story of the left lower quadrant pain, which had brought her in.
“My mother, she broke her hip and she’s all alone.”
For a moment, I thought of my list of post-ops, the night already gone.
I pulled up a chair, “Tell me more.”

Chidinma S. Tiko-Okoye
Resident

Orientation “Zoom”-ing By

In silence, scrolling through “gallery view” to make friends. In person meetings create a 10-person community but it’s more than spotty online connections can do. “This ain’t college” and it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The upcoming unknown feels overwhelming but I am reassured that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Sarah Gold
Medical Student

Our Reflections

The fall and rise, breathing holds no lies
I see you suffer, you think you are tougher
This disease is new to us, you have lost your trust
I want you to believe in our guidance and care, can we meet there?
If you refuse, you perish, your loved ones you will fail to cherish.

Anitha Chandran
Resident

Body Language

Back at the hospital, finally. It has been months. Everything is different. I no longer see mouths or facial expressions due to masks- only eyes. I struggle to connect with my patients and colleagues. No encouraging smiles. No handshakes. No intimate gestures of comfort. I feel inept when stripped of using body language in medicine.

Rachel Fields
Medical Student

A Wandering Smile

My smile wanders, searching for a way
past my polypropylene mask to you
from my eyes to your eyes through a plane of plastic
from my hand to your hand through a layer of latex
buzzing by my vocal cords to reach your empty ears
in small words floating through the filtered air between us.

Vishesh Jain
Resident

Mental Health

A chair and a desk
In the basement of my home.
Isolation, fear, uncertainty.

A light and a chime
From the screen of my computer
doubt, nervousness, anxiety.

A laugh and a voice
Fills the air in my room.
Resilience, hope, reverie.

Notes and drawings
Sprawled across my desk.
Excitement, zeal, fervency.

Connection can heal.

Peter Vollbrecht
Faculty Member

Pressing Pause

Commitment to heal and serve others, in their most vulnerable moments of life. We earnestly swore.
Years of studies, hoping knowledge would save. Mastering the art of physical exam. Healing through touch.
Yet faced with pandemic, we are discouraged to touch.
Sent home. Knowledge paused.
Unable to heal.
The irony: Student doctors shielded from disease.

Hanna Knauss
Medical Student

Masked connections

Connections with patients form the foundation of trust
That connection used to evolve from a smile or gentle touch
Now, I smile at patients, forgetting that the smile is hidden behind my mask
I look into their eyes and see their fears and hopes
We continue on and make new connections through all the uncertainty.

Eleny Romanos-Sirakis
Faculty Member

Together Apart

Our eyes now smile for our mouths that have lost the privilege. They pierce through the tension engendered by collective fear to remind us that we are still human, and that we still have the propensity to love one another. Our eyes protect us by bringing us together, while keeping us apart.

Mika Mintz
Medical Student

Video visit

I tell her she has a rare cancer. My voice is shaky. She laughs. She says, “Why me? Why not me?” We laugh together.
She doesn’t cry. I would have cried with her if she did. I couldn’t have handed her a tissue if she did. it’s a video visit.
I can’t hold her hands.


Zehra Tosur
Faculty Member

Optics, plastics, and haptic

Filtered breath escapes between my mask and nose,

                        fogging shield, yet

                        I clearly see your worried brow.

                        Cloth and plastic

                              muffle voices, disguise faces, lips

                              cannot hide smiling eyes.

I would grasp your warm hands

with my inevitably cold ones, tactile sensate

                        Gloved must do

                        haptics muted by clammy nitrile

                        cannot dull a healing touch.

Lealani Mae Acosta, MD, MPH
Faculty Member

Visiting

Ms. J cried, then apologized
for crying. After surgery,
I worried about her.
It was mid-March. I didn’t know what was safe.
But she was afraid, so I visited her.
She told me, “It’s too much.”
I listened. I kept my distance.
I worried about the breath
that carried my words. Still,
this felt essential.

Sharada Narayan
Medical Student

Regret

Social distancing kept me from noticing how sick you had become. Our 15 year routine of Sunday dinner, became limited to FaceTime and grocery drop offs, where you toughened up so that I wouldn’t be concerned. Now, as you reach your final days, I think that maybe you should have been my bubble buddy.

Annie Wood
Administrator

A hand to hold

Ever since COVID, my patients have been scared and alone. No measure of facetime will suffice in exchange for physical presence of family and friends at bedside. That’s why it’s ever more important these days for us doctors to offer a kind word of encouragement and a hand to hold.

Julian Swanson
Faculty Member

Heal

Emotions have been everywhere. Students care and want to see patients. Residents want to experience the pandemic upfront. We must let them. We must support them. We must protect them. We must keep ourselves whole. We must let patients see our hearts and imagine our faces. We must breathe. We must teach. We must heal.

Regina Macatangay, MD
Faculty Member

The gift of touch, through PPE

Sick teen, dialysis. Went to tell her mother: ‘no changes’. She told me the loss of an infant prepared her for this child’s diagnosis, and another daughter’s. Four months ‘cancer-free’ before relapse. Grateful for ‘the talk’… “it was OK to die”. I listened, thanked her. Through PPE, I touched her shoulder: “see you tomorrow”. Tears.

Don Batisky, MD
Faculty Member

Local epidemiology, not in the news?

Cars arrive on the block, parking closer than 6 feet.
Visitors carry toddlers, glass containers for potluck next door.
BBQ smokes, tempting aromas aerosolize.
As people cross the exposed lawn, I see smiles, not masks.
My phone pings again, irritating.
Alerts for each new positive SARS-CoV-2.
They keep coming. My neighbors do not hear.

Kathleen Julian, MD
Faculty Member

What lay ahead

Social distancing isolated him, and left him time to think,
A window into what might wait for him after retirement.
To avoid his future, his pain, led him to drink,
And so he came to us. We removed his shroud.
He stepped from our hands to the care of others.
We stood together, fighting despair.

Philip Brown
Medical Student

“Everything will be ok” is not the answer to everything

“Why dad doesn’t wanna wear a mask? I told him to! He doesn’t care!” —says the boy, while pulling the beanie down to his nose, drying his tears. “Does he wanna die of COVID and not be with me?”

My first Tuesday’s Children at the Psychiatric Clinic. I was wearing a colorful ribbon as requested.

Angélica Nieves-Rivera
Medical Student

Clerkship Interrupted

My lifeless whitecoat hangs on the door,
Safe to say it’s needed no more.
TikTok, Netflix, and long walks,
Sometimes it’s nice when the TV just talks.
Sitting and waiting for the pandemic to be done,
I wonder if the virus has already won.

Max Trojano
Medical Student

She is a nurse too

Gloved hand caresses her head, grey-white hair soaked with sweat
She looks at me, fearful, breathing strained
A mask shields my worry
My face should not be the last she would see
She slips into sleep
Intubated
Hang fluids, give pressors, change the vent
Googles fogging, I’m now sweat-drenched
She is a nurse too

Stephen Paul Wood
Administrator

Blank Stare

Eyes wide open unable to look away from the world furiously unraveling. We began this journey to help, now we sit still, idling. Incapable of offering our untried hands; we grieve the loss of opportunity. When again will we look into a patient’s eyes? Until then, we stare blankly at the computer screen, our pedagogue.

Shelby Henry
Medical Student

Sole Soul

For my patient, I act as their loved one.
Standing vigil outside a glass door,
holding their hand in my gloved palms,
watching over them behind googles and mask.
For loved ones, I am the sole soul
standing between their family member
and the dark cloak of Death
who paces the halls watching in turn.

Sara Journeay
Resident

Solitary confinement

Donning PPE, my gloved hand on his shoulder, “Sir, you have coronavirus.”  
He didn’t move. His foot handcuffed to bedrail.

His dad died last week from the virus. Didn’t see him. Didn’t make the funeral.

“Doc, my cellie kept coughing. No way to keep us 6 feet apart. No masks. No cleaning supplies.”

Solitary confinement.

Priti Dangayach
Faculty Member

Untitled

I wake up. Put on a mask. Can’t breathe. We sit with white coats and laptops, discussing patients with hours left. My patient grabs my hand. “It’s okay, I’m not afraid. I know where I’m going.” Tennis ball in my throat. Can’t breathe. Pager beeps: “Need you to declare time of death.” No more breath.

Mikaela Katz
Resident

The Storm

Like an encroaching storm, COVID-19 gains momentum. An ominous sky foreshadows masked isolation and death. Discontented winds sweep the land. The burden of racial injustice saturates the dark clouds, erupting in pelting rain, each drop stinging wherever it lands. Hailstones of racial violence add destruction to the deluge. Will a rainbow follow this national maelstrom?

Michael P. Flanagan, MD
Faculty Member

MS2 to MS3 Transition……Loading

Scrolling through an endlessly disconnected social media, the light gets drained from me.

Scrolling through my emails, meaningful extracurricular opportunities re-enlightening me.

Scrolling through clinical modules to read, simulating an experience so close yet so distant for me.

Scrolling through a prolonged phase of imposter syndrome, except the scrolling function feels disabled to me.

Irfan Ali Khan
Medical Student

Becoming a Physician During the Pandemic

I choke down coffee in the parking lot. Once the mask is on, it’s on. Under blaring E.D. lights, I quake. I am your doctor. Mask, goggles, face-shield: PPE protects patients from my fear.

Taking the Hippocratic Oath, I had imagined my future fear: Will I hurt you?

But now, also: Will you hurt me?

Hanna M. Saltzman
Resident

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