Tempered Relief



shackled. “it won’t stop.” bleeding. tears.
afrin. packing. another stream. frustration.
cocaine. nasal tampon. river. fear.
gel foam. surgicel. holding pressure. sigh of relief.

“damn. now it’s back to jail.”


caught up in his more urgent complaint, i failed to see the deeper roots of his anxiety and frustration. sometimes, only after addressing the immediate issue does the deeper one surface.


Heyman Oo, MS4 at UCSD SOM


I have become well-practiced in wishing.

I wish

I had known the answer to that question on rounds.

I had studied more for that shelf.

I had actually read that article before teaching.

I wish

I took better care of myself, went to the gym more, ate organic.

I wish

I didn’t have to miss that



(birthday party)

because I was (in the OR) (on the wards) (on nights) (on call)

But most of all, I wish:

77 years old, severe dementia, UTI, too weak to walk, confuses me for her son, invites me to join her for dinner. 

“Can you get me out of here?”

I wish.

32 years old, metastatic melanoma to the brain, blind, clogged shunt, seizures, sings 80’s ballads to the nurses during rounds.

“Is there anything else that can be done?”

I wish.

34 years old, alcoholic hepatitis, skin yellow as cornmeal, humorous and a fighting spirit, MELD >35, 30-day mortality of 70%, not a transplant candidate.

Can I get you anything?

“A new liver?” jokingly

I wish. Sincerely.

The Enchilada



Papa always said,


Master your emotions.

CHOOSE not to think about Mama yellin’ ri’ now

You have a book report to finish.


It never worked, back then.


He would be so proud if he saw me now.


I put it together like beads on a string,

Tachy plus sweat,

Minus full breaths,

A PE in front of me and I was holding his back,

My hands steady

His skin sweaty

I was holding his back,

He kept ripping off his oxygen mask.


We stayed with him that night until his family came round,

Explaining tiredly that he changed his mind about his DNR status,

That he asked for the tube.


Reason dictates that I should have felt something visceral.

I should have wanted to scream,

Or cry

Or punch something.

He was dying before my eyes.


I was thinking instead about a microwaveable enchilada in my fridge.

How this man was putting more hours between me, and it.


Papa always told me,



I grew up too fast, and did.

Full circle

 Dipika Gopal, MS4 at UCSD SOM

What is Birth? What is Death?
Are these two processes separate?

It is from birth only, that we can experience death.
In both, tears are shed with bated breath
Family is close and dear ones are informed
There is no better time to ritualize our form

But why do we anticipate birth
Yet run and hide from the horrid thought of death?
Is it change? Is it fear? Is it that we lose what we want so near?

A baby girl peers into the world with curiosity unmasked
While a dying man reflects into his soul, uncertainty unmasked
Birth and death form a circle
A circle of being of which life is only a part
The power of understanding this is just shy of a miracle
But once internalized can be passed from heart to heart.

So again I ask, What is Birth? What is Death?
Aren’t these two processes one and the same?