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Pectoriloquy |

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Jennifer Campbell, MA
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Editor’s Note: Ms Campbell writes that “I wrote this piece after my sister-in-law died as a result of complications from a brain aneurysm. I was newly pregnant when she was in the hospital awaiting surgery and torn between wanting to be there for her and fearing doing so might jeopardize my own health and the health of my unborn child.” She is an English professor in Buffalo, New York.

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


Chest. 2012;142(2):536. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2515
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I didn’t visit you often enough,
convinced the devil hadn’t decided
who to take—a sister or a child.
Spending most of my time in the waiting room
skimming through questions
about my pregnancy, I allowed others
to thumb through a story of life.
But no winged creatures—translucent
or coal black—passed your curtain,
just a shadow on the neurologist’s face.
No din or crash cart either,
just the cold coil of finished paperwork.
Pretending not to see your lips
framing help me, I listened to the nurses
claim the morphine made you delirious,
the aneurysm jumbled your words.
Why tempt death with a more helpless victim,
furry and fingerprinted, the length of a finger?
I guiltily covered my small belly
each time I saw you masked in suffering.
And I was never more tired.


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