2017 Creative Writing Winning Entry - Dr. Sullivan

"A Patient/doctor - Doctor Moment"

By Sarah Sullivan, MD

She walked into the room,
me lying still, wasting
away, 
a tube stretched
from my nose
to the depths of my intestines,
the head of my bed
raised against the gravity.

She almost said hello with her nod,
almost thought, hello you crazy woman
who thinks you cannot eat.


—an English accent, a cold buttery voice—
     this is what you remember 

But I could tell, so far as I recall,
that she did not   quite   think I was crazy,
that she/I/we knew, I could not eat at all,
that this—I—was a problem
meant for some special specialist.

Yet there I was,
another patient on her list.
I think I thanked god
I was not a patient
on my list, and wondered if
I’d ever have a list again. 

She brushed a stethoscope
along my body, 

—waves of nausea with each touch—
     this is what you remember

reported some test result as:
normal,
said, you should be fine, dear,
thought, not much to do, here,
walked briskly out the door.


Author Biography:

I was a writer long before I considered becoming a physician. Writing brings me joy and helps me make sense of this world. It also brings connection between me and my readers, whether I know them or not.

When I started medical school, my writing was put on the back burner. Only within the past two years have I found the opportunity to join other writers and dedicate time to my poetry and some creative nonfiction. This opportunity arose in part because I left my full time primary care position due to health reasons.

The piece I am submitting reflects struggles with managing anxiety, with finding my own identity when not working as a physician, and with being useful in the community and one-on-one. It ties together past and present experiences, which, really, we all carry with us throughout each day.

I am now recovered physically, working more, but holding onto time committed to writing. I believe that our creative minds help make us better doctors in our approach to  problem solving and interacting with patients and peers. I am pleased that physicians' creative qualities are valued and shared by Massachusetts Medical Society.

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