Where Doctors Hide

March 1, 2002

When a patient dies and my pager goes off, and a nurse brings in a family member who needs to talk, and my pager cries again, my heart rate jumping to 120, my skin twitching like a racehorse, I hide in a fifth floor bathroom no larger than a closet with an old toilet, rust stained sink, and a mirror the size of my face. I look myself in the eye, to be sure my pupils are equal and react to light, measure my pulse until the beats begin to slow, run cold water on my wrists, stuff paper towels under my arms to absorb the sweat, and make cool compresses to hold on my forehead like a wounded soldier. And I turn off the pager and think about my colleagues, who stand here as alone as me believing no one else knows where they hide.

When a patient dies
and my pager goes off,
and a nurse brings in
a family member
who needs to talk,
and my pager cries again,
my heart rate jumping
to 120, my skin twitching
like a racehorse,
I hide in a fifth floor bathroom
no larger than a closet
with an old toilet,
rust stained sink,
and a mirror the size of my face.
I look myself in the eye,
to be sure my pupils
are equal and react to light,
measure my pulse
until the beats begin to slow,
run cold water on my wrists,
stuff paper towels under my arms
to absorb the sweat,
and make cool compresses
to hold on my forehead
like a wounded soldier.
And I turn off the pager
and think about my colleagues,
who stand here
as alone as me
believing no one else knows
where they hide.