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On the Gurney FREE TO VIEW

Carol Lois Gloor, JD
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Editor’s Note: The author wrote “On the Gurney” to convey the sense of confusion as one enters major surgery, creating the need to give “final instructions” to a loved one. She is a 64-year-old semi-retired attorney living in Chicago.

Reproduction of this article is prohibited without written permission from the American College of Chest Physicians. See online for more details.

Chest. 2012;142(1):260. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2392
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I choose general anesthesia again
for need of its oblivion, its power to kill.
Now rolling toward the cold lights
I pull my husband to me:
half my ashes on our Lake Michigan beach,
half on the rocks above the Mississippi,
where the blazing stars bloom in May,
but a Christian service before the burning.
Then one second later someone is calling my name.
It’s never wake up but always your name,
that word chosen at birth, for me anointed at baptism,
my name calling me back, with tubes sprouting
from my nose, arms, hands, smothered by a hot blanket
under which I sink to the bottom of Lake Michigan,
rise to beige noises, red voices demanding answers:
Are you in pain? Can you breathe?
OK, not in pain. OK, breathing.
Just let me sink one more time
to the sleep I always wanted.




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