Emory University
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55 words

Fifty-five word stories are brief pieces of experiential writing that use elements of poetry and prose to encapsulate key experiences.

Hughes Evans, vice chair for education in the Department of Pediatrics, uses the technique with her medical students and residents. “We often pare down our stories to be clinical, but that leaves out other aspects that have emotional resonance, parts that are funny or poignant,” she says. “These speak to a part of being a doctor that doesn’t always get its due—about death, making mistakes, or other things that are hard to deal with.”

Andrew McReynolds
LETTING GO
24 years old. Blue jeans, white shirt. Credit card, driver’s license in a small black wallet. Bloodied, bruised, broken in pieces. A crumpled piece of paper in there. You want what’s best for your family. How did it feel, before you fell, to let go? Are you feeling better now? We picked up the pieces.


Rachel Buckle
RUSH DELIVERY
2 am, an urgent call when we show up, her sheets are already soaked
a chaotic rush to delivery
translator yelling through the phone.
I have never seen so much blood.
I only know enough to be paralyzed.
She only knows enough to push through.
One still moment
Dad pleads, “Baby?”
With sharp wailing, baby answers.


Divya Kishore
NOBODY LEFT
The 20-year-old in cardiogenic shock said she had nobody. Her hobbies included playing games on her phone, and watching TV. Her mom and sister had died and she’d been through foster care. Her dad couldn’t raise her so he left. Through tears she asked us to please leave her alone before her right heart catheterization.


Kristen Balkam
COMEDIAN AT 7
Seven years old.
He came in having
swallowed a quarter.
It was stuck. Endoscopy needed
in the morning.
He smiled at me as I examined him.
I placed my stethoscope
on his abdomen.
He wiggled his body
back and forth.
He asked,
“Can you hear it? ... I’m
a piggy bank.”
Kids say the darnedest things.


Lia Phillips
THE CONVERSATION
Baby boy in for VSD repair.
Surgeons can’t pass the Foley.
Heart repair postponed. Parents expect a fixed baby, instead are learning to change an ostomy.
In recovery, new organ defects
discovered every day. Hope of
having a normal child is gone,
parents are grieving. Am I really the best person to start this
conversation?


Erica Smearman
PASSING ON
I remember the human body, splayed open, organs now removed. Sitting next to a liver packaged in a box for the trip back. Surgeons await. I pass it over. An insurmountable gift.
Through a death I helped finish, to the chance at life for another.
The joy. The heartbreak.
Wildly, beautifully,
tied together as one.


Lizzy Robertson
FIRST WEEK
Code blue, what do I do?
Jumbled resuscitation algorithms
in my head
Heart racing, what room again?
Pager drops on the floor and breaks
Keep running, out of breath
Don’t know where that room is
Think I went down this hall already
Left or right? Which way?
Lost in the hospital
Code canceled!
Thank God.


Nathan Yarnell
TODO ESTA BIEN
New diagnosis. AML. Poor prognosis. Mom confident. Prefiere espanol. Playful, curly black locks. A real lady-killer at 12 months. Su fe en El Dios. Chemotherapy. Good PO. Broken Spanish. Está bien. New rash. Hopeful spirit. Está bien. Restricted from the garden. Está bien. Curly black locks fall to the floor. Está bien. Todo está bien.


Omar Shakeel
CURVEBALL
Healthy boy with new onset seizures,
Diagnosed with AVM, successfully resected, prognosis good,
We anticipate a quick recovery.
Curveball
Increased ICP. EVD continues to drain. Pentobarb coma.
Three weeks pass,
we expect the worst.
Parents refuse to give up…
Just when your mind is made up,
his mind wakes up.
Never give up on miracles.

 

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