Side by Side

The strange thing about my job is that when I’m late, it’s not because I have a project that’s due, or phone calls to finish, or an unhelpful customer wasting my time.

When I’m late leaving work it might be because I had to hang an antibiotic that arrived late, or because I was coding a patient.

I might have been drawing up life-saving medications, one after the other, hastily labeling with tape, focused on the task with my ears intent on the next request that might be yelled over a small, limp body on the bed.

It’s painfully ordinary, it’s heartbreakingly sad.

The fact that it’s clinical, it’s somewhat routine. The language, the stress, the chaos is the fabric of my workday.

It makes me wonder- am I becoming callused when I am glad to be able to practice compressions because I havent done them in a while?

Am I too used to it, when the cries of babies who have been in the hospital too long become background noise I can tune out?

What kind of person does it make me if I am wondering in a code if adults belly’s blow up the same as kids do with the forced air during compressions?

I leave work with my hair in a bun from when I had to put the surgical hat on, pen marks on my hands, and a faint blood stain the bottom of my shirt.

I leave my patients, squeezing a hand or stroking their hair, but bring the sadness with me. My brain toggles between contemplating the fragility of human life while internally venting about something as mundane as poor leadership or the lack of clean linens.

Start a drip to bring up a dangerously low blood pressure, and text my husband about which veggies to cook up for dinner.

Prepare a brain dead patient for organ donation, laugh with a friend in the hallway about a meme a few minutes later.

The contrast blinds my eyes as a hopelessly grasp for normal

And find that life and death

The mundane and the tragic

have always existed

side by side.

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