I’m thinking about Dr. O’Neil’s hands shaking as she
struggles to intubate a cat.
I’m thinking about Dr. Krager’s hands squeezing the cat’s rib cage,
pulsing life with a delicate force; she is much more gentle than
practitioners are with humans—
hard and quick down with the palms; the ribs snapping,
the sternum sore.
Some time ago an 80-year-old woman on my unit was
opened up bedside for a cardiac procedure during a code.
After a week in ICU, she came back to us on the unit, was up and
walking and talking, and was discharged home within another week.
Meanwhile, the 60-year-old man was dead in the morgue
after a 45-minute code failed to resuscitate him.
The flip of the coin. The thin line. The blessing or the curse.
The absolute darkness of a body bag. The cold chill of absolute zero.
The fresco painted on the catacomb walls could either depict the
light of the sun or the multicolored lights that the
brain shoots off minutes before death.
The eleventh hour,
isn’t that what it’s called?
We don’t want to talk about body care, death care.
We have to, but it won’t register.
After a loss, after a trauma,
we are on autopilot.
I think of my mother,
six feet beneath frozen soil in
a pink padded casket and think:
I don’t want that.
I think of the prearranged plots my grandparents picked out
next to her in an above ground crypt and think:
I don’t want that.
Bacteria still causes decay after the embalming process.
Putrefied flesh. Bones visible. Muscles eaten. Tissues disintegrated.
We don’t talk about it.
We try to think the opposite. The positive vs the negative.
(But that’s not always possible or healthy.)
I’m thinking about hands inserting IVs, hands taking
blood pressures, hands documenting the code notes
on a clipboard in the back of the room.
I couldn’t do these things.
My hands tend to break what they touch.
The glass bowl in the pet store.
The clay project in art class.
The succulents, the basil, the orchid.
I’m good at things I don’t have to think about:
good at the autopilot, good at the autonomic,
good at trauma.
notice that the fawn response isn't titled here