Code

“They need you in room 13” she said when I answered the phone and I ran back to the ICU.  The patient was coding and for each minute that felt like an hour, we tried, and failed, to save her.  She wasn’t breathing, her heart wasn’t working, and despite the 30 people gathered in the room, … Continue reading

On Smoking and Death

“I don’t want to quit smoking,” my patient says with her face firmly set.  I’m taken aback. “I don’t think that’s true,” I say,” you just told me you quit, then you started again because your brother and grandson died in the past few months and you’re struggling with the loss.  I don’t think it’s … Continue reading

Brain Transplant

When I was in Boston, I had a patient with a brain tumor and two adult sons.  She had a malignant, progressive brain tumor and had been unresponsive for months.  Her prognosis was poor.  One son, I’ll call him Peter, thought she would have wanted to be DNR/DNI:  if her heart stops, if her breathing … Continue reading

Dying

It is another night on call in the intensive care unit.  The night shift starts with what we call a sign-out where the physicians who have been taking care of these critically ill patients during the day tell me a bit about each of them as well as any issues that would be useful to … Continue reading