13 November 2013


I examine a patient who I had rounded on earlier that day. Visiting patients in the afternoon is enjoyable. Unlike in the early morning, patients are awake and eager to chat. They also appreciate having someone check in on them. I ask my patient about her plans when she gets discharged from the hospital. She is going to be starting nursing school. What made her decide to become a nurse was her serious illness, which has made her spend considerable time in the hospital. After a pleasant conversation about her future, I walk to the elevator bay to head to a different floor.

Within moments of pressing the down button, an elevator arrives. Only once I've stepped into the elevator do I realize that it has other occupants. A man and a woman, both wearing black, are enmeshed in a tight embrace. The woman is sobbing. The man's head hangs downwards. They are immobile, never acknowledging me or so much as glancing in my direction. The somber mood makes me feel self-conscious about the whimsical children's tie that I'm wearing for my pediatrics rotation. I stand at the opposite corner, staring ahead at the doors and trying to give them their space. After some seconds that feel interminable, my floor arrives and I hop off. The couple remains frozen in place. The woman's sobs echo through the hallway until the elevator door closes.

I had wandered from the story of the future nurse into the story of this couple, who had just been visited by some unknown tragedy. It's as though I had just walked into the girls' bathroom by mistake. I did not belong there. Their narrative was not one that I was meant to inhabit.