Pectoriloquy |

The night float FREE TO VIEW

Maya Kotas, MD, PhD
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Editor’s Note: The author writes, “‘The night float’ is about my first experience declaring death and the horror of having to deliver terrible news to a stranger. It is an experience I’ll carry with me forever, to keep hold of the gravity and honor in what we do.” Maya Kotas is a second year internal medicine resident at New York Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, and will soon begin fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at UCSF.

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

Chest. 2015;148(3):839. doi:10.1378/chest.15-1073
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It wasn’t unexpected      not to me
knowing from books that stage IV means
    and then the slowing pulse
the pressure is so low, Doctor,
do you want me to measure it again?
this is what we expect when one is dying.
(I’d seen her once the night before
already yellow-grey and pale
    paper lids closed rattling gasps dampened
    under a haze of morphine)
I am summoned to her room in the early hours
    (foggy horizon almost light outside
buzzing hallway bulbs that never sleep)
pulseless though the skin’s still warm
the ghost lifted in her vanished breath.
It is as I expected and I can do
    this job.
by the bed, a man I assume is    but I’ve never met
shoulders softly shaking
    face buried in his hands
I’m so sorry for your
his eyes already swollen looking up at mine
and suddenly I am ashamed and
    out of place.
Some words should not be spoken by a stranger
even if I am a
how I wish I knew your story.
I pronounce its closure    (unwitting angel of death)
Outside the door a young nurse is waiting.
    I’ve never   I didn’t know what to expect
    I know, I whisper. Nor I.
(Down the hall, cacophony of the change of shift
    morning commuters clog the streets below)




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