Pectoriloquy |


Joyce La Mers
Author and Funding Information

Editor’s Note: “I wrote this poem following open heart surgery during which a valve was replaced. When I regained consciousness in the ICU afterward, I had the strong impression that I had actually ceased to exist for a period of time. I’m 89, a great-grandmother, and I live in Oxnard, California.”

Editor’s note for authors of submissions to Pectoriloquy: Poems should not exceed 350 words, should not have been previously published, and should be related to concerns of physicians and medicine. First submissions to the Pectoriloquy Section should be submitted via e-mail to poetrychest@aol.com. Authors of accepted poems will be asked to submit the final version to CHEST Manuscript Central.

Michael Zack, MD, FCCP

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians (http://www.chestpubs.org/site/misc/reprints.xhtml).

© 2011 American College of Chest Physicians

Chest. 2011;139(4):964. doi:10.1378/chest.10-0806
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I have been privileged to know oblivion.
It is not the same as sleeping;
there are no dreams.
The heart-lung machine churned blood
to keep my organs nourished,
but I was not there.
Hours later in the recovery room
I opened one eye, saw a blank white
window, and knew I had come back
from wherever I had been.
They split my sternum as if I were
a frying chicken, then wired it back.
Although new bone will grow
to fill the gap, the wire remains.
It is heavy, like baling wire,
and will make interesting x-rays.
A pig was sacrificed for my new valve.
Bred to be donors, pampered pigs
lead happy, germfree lives,
and at the end are eased out
gently, without trauma.
Do they miss the mud?
Which has more value,
a pig or a person?
Depends on whom you ask.
This body I have known so well—
which part of it holds me?
My heart was not beating.
My lungs had stopped breathing.
My brain no longer functioned.
Where did I go, that day they turned me off?
Was I dead? I did not see bright light
or a dark tunnel. Dead loved ones
did not greet me. I did not float along
the ceiling to watch the surgeons work.
I was just…away. Nowhere,
where nothing
is all
there is.




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