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The Procedure FREE TO VIEW

Bonnie Stanard
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Editor’s Note: Bonnie Stanard wrote “The Procedure” after her mother, a robust woman of unusual energy, suffered strokes followed by increasing paralysis, and died bed ridden and unable to walk, eat, or talk.

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;140(5):1382. doi:10.1378/chest.10-2716
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When the day begins with her falling
and not feeling it and not knowing
and the emergency crew comes quickly
as if there’s a treatment or cure
When the hospital’s chart says she’s headed for paralysis
atrophy and decline and she’s transferred
to a maintenance facility
with part-time aides and underpaid staff
When admission formalities require insurance
a list of her belongings
when a highlighter marks her religion
whether to resuscitate and preferences in funeral homes
When nurses wait until too late to take her to the toilet
then leave her there too long
when meals are moments of mush she’s forced to swallow or inhale
and the television broadcast hardly conceals the crying next door
When the doctor no longer has time to listen
to halting pauses that were questions on the rise
and anyway he already knows the diagnosis
prognosis and probable cause
When visitors become a thing of the past
and get-well cards can be construed as ridicule
and even her pastor forgets to pray with her
though she’s a long-time believer with future rights
I hold my mother’s hand not knowing what else to do
and hope that we can firmly take this next step
and overcome the rational fear of pain and proceed in
an orderly fashion to whatever it is that comes next.




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