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Editor's Comments on 'Gravity'

 , July 28, 2017

Providing care for patients changes us. Whether we tend for the living or tend to the dying, we have all been changed by the demands of such care. In Neha Verma’s piece “Gravity,” we take a close look at those first few moments of the starkest change: the first days of entering the clinical world. The author reflects on listening to the ventilator rhythmically inflate a man’s lungs, and a day later, doing chest compressions on a patient who does not survive. In the first instance the artificial steadiness of the ventilator sustains the man; in the second, the artificial rhythm of the compressions do not. In between these episodes we are transported to a calmer scene, before the author entered medical school, on Christmas where her family is deciding what movie to see. The author’s older sister, a medical student herself, refuses to watch the movie Gravity, wary of “watching people contemplate death” when she is already all too familiar with the demands of tending to the dying. It is here the author reminds us how hard it is to understand emotional valences of these moments before we experience them ourselves—the sister is teased for her dramatics. Thus this piece ultimately becomes about relationships: relationships between siblings, relationships between people at different points in their clinical career, and perhaps the relationship we have with ourselves as we try to make sense of caring for the dying.

Stephen Raithel