Thursday, November 21, 2013

The only exercise I ever get

AFTER I WOKE up from my nap I felt my neck hurt. And my arms, too.

The code, which lasted for 20 minutes or so in the early morning, had me do the chest compressions with the Pediatrics resident. The patient was a 16-year old girl with a malignant tumor. The family had long known the prognosis—a dire one—but her mother kept wailing in the corner, crying out for help, while her father looked dazed, as if hypnotized, wondering if it was all just a dream.

O, if it only were.

I joke around that pumping chests during resuscitation is the only upper body exercise I get these days. It is good exercise: me pushing hard and fast, catching my breath, afraid to stop, because if I did so the patient may not survive. Nothing quite like another person's life in the balance to get me going. So I get to burn all the fast food I devour during breaks, after all. I'm in the pink of health.

But like all jokes it is half-meant. The other half consists of grief and pain: at seeing death, which leaves us powerless at some point. One never gets used to it.

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