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Medical Humanities

I Need You

Molly Elmer-DeWitt
October 3, 2014

I'd held her hand, her ileum, her gratitude in my hand. Held a GIA endo stapler over a section of her gut and hit fire, held the phone when she called from the road to say she was leaking fluid out of her incision and she couldn't stand the smell. 

I'd met her on the wards, her on her second small bowel obstruction, me on my third year surgery rotation. Her colon cancer was big, and it was back, despite the best chemotherapy, operations, prayers. I left a trail of notes like breadcrumbs through her chart - inpatient, outpatient, emergency, oncology, hospice. To the world I was a medical student; to Ms B I was her "surgeon friend," a title I couldn't wait to live up to.

I called every four days once she went home - under the guise of medical evaluation, but it was for me that I opened her chart. Hoping that the person who believed in me most could be sustained solely on the food of my hopes. I called until one day her husband answered the phone: "She's gone," he said. "Call if you need me."  

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