My senior and I had been on night float together for a few weeks. That night, the dimmed lights of the hospital corridors spilled into the workroom which was lit only by my computer screen, but that was enough. Despite the few months that I had been there as an intern, I could describe each inch of this room with my eyes closed.
It was 2 a.m. and I was downward-dog in the call room. Earlier during this maternal/child health rotation night shift, I had labored with three other moms in so many different positions that my back felt like it might actually break.
Listen to the track “PGY3” by Dr. Roy Souaid and his band “John Lebanon.” The song started in New Orleans during the American College of Physicians National Conference in May 2018 and has been a yearlong project inspired by street buskers, hospital sounds and jazz. It captures the medical resident’s work flow and is set in the medical intensive care unit at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island.
Over the last year, our collective minds have been captivated by stories about child and family separation, detainment of citizens and immigrants, and the quality of the health care within detention facilities. These stories have been jarring and traumatic, and have also awoken an important level of national consciousness about the nature of detention. What has not received as much coverage in recent discourse is the ongoing nature of solitary confinement in our justice system.
At first, my heart pauses: frozen from shock. / But, within a few seconds, I start to take stock.
Of all the fulfilling and purposeful vocations to pursue, we’ve ended up trying to find our footing in the vast and ever-changing maze of medicine. Propelled by some combination of privilege, perseverance, and circumstance, we became doctors — many of us with the noble drive to heal and support other humans through the physical and spiritual struggles of life.
A smear of what I assumed was cat poop obstructed a narrow asphalt path that led to a mobile home. It was raining. I tiptoed around the sopping heap of excrement. Behind me, the wound care attending physician followed.
I remember feeling resentful that he seemed too healthy to have come to the ER in the first place, while I, on the other hand, was shuffling around as if walking ankle-deep in wet cement, dead tired and longing to stretch out on the gurney in the adjoining cubicle.
It was a busy Friday afternoon in the pediatric intensive care unit. The prior evening, he began having profuse lower gastrointestinal bleeding necessitating urgent transfer to the intensive care unit.
I did not stay down / I did not give up
my patient does not have insurance / he asks me to address his concerns
Illness lies hidden in our ways / Influenced by the unconscious gaze.