Friday, February 5, 2021

An Eight Hour Shift

 Pong Pong       Code Blue

A woman, young, with small children,

pain so deep that liver and renal failure

could not keep her away from the alcohol

that dulled her ache.

Pulses back

nurses and doctors and techs

working frantically in astronaut-like helmets or

in respirators that resemble insects.

Blood pressure too low

a body that just wants to escape


Bleeding internally.  Brain injury.

Husband concedes - DNR. 

And before she is whisked away

to the ICU where her family will

eventually take her off life-support

in a day or two when  

the futility is absorbed another . . .

Pong Pong      Code Blue

A man, young, with small children

pain so deep that one bottle of pills

was not enough.

CPR is violent, abusive to the body

staff are desperately trying to save.

Depress the chest at least two inches

for at least one hundred times a minute.

Hair bobs, faces sweat, 

flesh ripples with each depression

dormant arms flop.

Ten more seconds. Pulse check.  Resume CPR

Plastic packaging crinkles as drugs

and syringes join and are handed through the door.

Epinephrine.  Bicarb.  Adrenaline.  Lidocaine.

Voices muffled by protective gear

trying to be heard as instructions and

information are thrown across the room -

across a body stubbornly trying to slip away.

How long has it been?

Crack - a rib is broken.

Crack - the sternum gives way.

Two inches down .

One hundred times a minute.

Blood backs up in the breathing tube

from injured lungs.

How long has it been?

Ten more seconds until pulse check.

Resume CPR.

Sweat glistens on flushed faces

As staff take turns.

Two inches down.

One hundred times per minute.

Pulse check.

Call it.

A woman, in her 20’s, with small children

is a now a widow.

Her wails fill the room

pressing against physician and chaplain,

suffocating all attempts to console.

“What was he thinking?”

“I’m fucking 27 years old!”

Extubation.  Comfort Care

Upstairs two nurses stand vigil

holding the hands of a dying patient.

Family left, saying they could not

bear to watch

so two nurses, tears soaking

their cloth masks watch.

No one dies alone

so they bear witness to his final breath.

“He was so kind to us.”

“He was a lovely man.”

Another COVID statistic

and before the IV poles are emptied

or the monitors are removed

the “cart” is brought up

to carry him to the morgue.

“We need the room.”

Shoulders slump and tremble

as they express their own wails.

They are so tired.

They are so drained.

Too many deaths.

Too many times.

COVID death - 1

COVID collateral death - 2

Hours until end of shift - 4

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