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Pectoriloquy |

Memories From the Breathed Air of an ICU FREE TO VIEW

Paul Rousseau
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Editor’s Note:The author writes, “This prose poem came about as I thought of my many visits to the ICU during 35-plus years of medicine, and the people, and families, that I met there. The breathed air of the ICU was, at times, pleasing, and at other times, it smelled of death.”

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

Winston Salem, NC


Copyright 2016, American College of Chest Physicians. All Rights Reserved.


Chest. 2017;151(2):510. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2016.07.032
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    There are memories that linger in the air, that remain like dirt under a fingernail.

In the midst of the whooshing of ventilators and the beeping of monitors I remember a wife who hugged her husband’s body as the morgue attendant stood tapping his fingers, and a man with AIDS whose mother begged to call it anything but AIDS, and a ninety-year-old woman who longed to feel her dead husband’s touch, and a Vietnam veteran anguishing over 103 sniper kills, and an infant with a tangle of deformities dying in his mother’s arms, and a man denied his personhood pleading “My name is Tom,” and a woman restrained and screaming “I wish I could get this man out of my body,” and a priest praying for forgiveness of an atheist dying of AIDS, and a man with emphysema asking for a match to light a cigarette, and a minister with leukemia afraid to die for faith may be just faith, and a man crying as he told of childhood sexual abuse by a drunkard father, and a drug addict begging for drugs to die, and a toothless man smiling as a DNR bracelet slipped from his wrist.


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