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Medical Humanities

Deer in the Headlights

Bartholomew Simon

Another warning marks one hour
On this endless country road:
Deer crossing, next 11 miles.
Can that even be right?
A tiny town holds their home.
A quick smile and I'm in the door.
I say I'm gonna be a doctor
And just like that, it pours forth.
She's the patient. Never close with her mom. 
Her heart almost killed her twice.
Her big, warm heart.
Most of her brain's blood doesn't make it.
And she has cirrhosis. Bad, too.
Neither of theirs came in a bottle.*
They gave her a year to live
Seven years back.
And called her a ticking time bomb.
She's still ticking right on.
We talk about life: her husband, her kids, their kids.
We talk about death: her parents, her sister, her God.
She's not afraid. She's on borrowed time
And she's in God's hands.
She asks if I believe in God
And I say yes
And I think it's the truth.
When I turn to leave
She gives me a big hug.
I cherish it.
I know I'll never see her again
And I see myself for what I am.
An intruder.
A bearer of chart records and life stories and deep dark secrets.
But I'll keep them. It's all I can promise.
I step out into the dark and the cold hits me.
The deer will be bedded down for the night.



*This has been edited 2017



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