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Editor's Commentary on "Arterial Puncture"

 , August 23, 2019

In “Arterial Puncture,” we are walked through the logistics of an innocuous event in the hospital, a blood draw. Residents and sometimes medical students are taught procedures, and it’s bewildering to suddenly have the reigns in your hands. We are taught to inspect, insert, stab, and perform without hurting, knowing that actual human bodies are the players. And yet, even though this is the way we learn in the hospital, mistakes are not uncommon. We must practice, as our patients must endure. This is more daunting in fields such as pediatrics or obstetrics, where medicine and humanity meet in a vulnerable way. Prioleau takes us into the quiet moment of anticipation after parental consent has been given. 


We are taken through the steps of an arterial blood draw with precision. One can almost see the writer’s hand as it forms the “C” on the newborn’s arm, preparing it to receive a calculated stab. She methodically inspects her target, noting landmarks that guide her “the creases / beneath the palm. / Almost parallel.” Then comes the moment—and the arm twists, making it necessary to begin again. By removing the pain and possible frustration from this scene, Prioleau reminds readers that practice is a routine, obligatory part of residency. 


Esther Lee