Art & Poetry in Medicine
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Selfish

I have a child, two months old
Who needs me, more than you need me.
I hear you crying, but it is her crying.
Driven crazy by the echoes of her hungry cries,
Milk leaking from my breasts,
While I stare at my reflection, 12 hours,
That damn sterile call room.
She does not take a bottle, she’s not gaining weight,
Her pediatrician says.
Every time I pump, it is interrupted by the
Beep
Of my pager —
Another patient, who “needs” me.
There are 92 of them; I’ve memorized all their names,
So and so wants to leave; so and so smeared poop;
So and so needs restraints; so and so
Tried to kill themselves with the plastic hospital fork,
Again.
So and so banging her head;
So and so,
So and so.
I wish they didn’t need me.
I have mastitis.

I have a child, two years old
Who needs me, more than you need me.
I hear you are dying.
But all I can think is, there are going to be a lot of pages tonight.
And I’ll be staying past sign-out tomorrow,
Again
To help “stabilize” him. As if he’s a chair who needs “stabilizing.”
I hear you crying, your wife crying, your grown children.
But it is him crying I hear. Mama! As I leave.
God, I even miss the tantrums.
I haven’t had dinner with him
Or read bedtime stories
For three weeks. Between my tears, the
Beep
Of my pager —
I tried to save him,
But couldn’t. I don’t even know how to “pronounce” someone dead.
“D – e – d” I picture myself teaching how to sound out the letters to my son.
Death means silence, and my pager will be silent.
And I can sleep tonight.
And see my son as soon as we finish rounds.
God, mastitis hurts.

I have a cat, five years old
Who needs me, more than you need me.
He is peeing out blood.
Now at the vet,
I beg my senior resident to let me go say goodbye.
He’s just a cat, she says,
But fine.
Only if you take the last admission.
So I say goodbye.
His meows still echoing in my ears
Hearing the
Beep
Of my pager —
My senior paging me, “Take the new patient.” It is 1 a.m.
A patient on meth.
His own fault.
Why did he do this on this night?
How inconsiderate
Of him.

Survival, it’s a selfish thing isn’t it?
Me, me, me.
The other night, when I was at home, my brother woke up to me screaming,
It’s not about you, it’s all about me. It’s all about me.

God, I hate me right now.

Image credit: crack by Dean Hochman is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Eunice Stallman, MD Eunice Stallman, MD (1 Posts)

Resident Physician Contributing Author

University of Washington School of Medicine


Eunice Stallman, MD completed her BS in neurobiology at the University of Washington, her medical degree at The Ohio State University College of Medicine, and is currently a fourth-year psychiatry resident at the University of Washington-Idaho Advanced Clinician Track. Her interests lie in advocacy and wellness for residents, maternal mental health, and gender equality. She spends much of her non-work time exploring beautiful Boise with her husband and three young children, ages one, three, and five.