poured out before bed
Our “new” admit is a bounce back, a patient previously cared for by med team 1 who required emergent surgery and a SICU stay, now stable for transfer back to the floor and the medical team. I wave to him through the glass doors as I grab an apron and gloves (he has, unfortunately, acquired a C. difficile infection), then step back to gown. As I move aside to avoid a portable X-ray machine gliding by, I catch sight of the scene in the adjoining SICU room.
A mousy woman in a pale blue pants suit and a peach flowered scarf sits erect at the bedside, dwarfed by the walnut harp before her. She watches the monitors closely as she plays, reacting to the changes in the patient’s physiology, her thin face both determined and pleasant. The music she calls forth from the strings is heart breakingly beautiful – so paralyzing that it takes me a moment to note the marked bradycardia turned flat-line on the telemetry screen. With a start I step forward, but am stopped by the bright red DNR/DNI sign at the door, the striking absence of audible alarm. The woman reaches out with one hand to take the patient’s, closing her eyes as she strokes the harp strings lightly with the other for a few moments. The man in the bed looks so small, so peaceful, as if he has lately snuggled up and drifted off in comfortable slumber. I stand mesmerized by the strange beauty before me.
Then a tall nurse brushes by me, slipping through the sliding door, whispers something to the harpist as she attends to the remains.
I brush away a tear as I finish donning my isolation regalia, taking one last look at the eloquent quiet before I sidle next door to greet my patient.