In the third grade, MEGAN SHANDELSON LEMAY, M’11, won her first writing contest, and she’s been hooked ever since. “Whenever I reflect about my experience with a patient, I always think of it as a story. I write a story in my head on the drive home from work and write it down later. It has helped me connect with patients to think of what their story has been, how it may conclude and what role I can play in their story.” Thoughshe usually writes prose, this poem is the result of a writing workshop at the end of her residency that prompted her with the word ‘redemption.’ She encourages her fellow alumni: “I have no formal training in writing. You don’t need to write well to reflect in pen and paper!”
This story first appeared in the spring 2017 issue of the medical school’s alumni magazine, 12th & Marshall. You can flip through the whole issue online.
Needle to Neck
I very nearly killed someone
the first time I put needle to neck.
The senior resident in my ear,
“We have to be quick. Go on, deeper.
Poke around. Get the flash.”
Twenty minutes later, the chest x-ray.
The surgeon running in.
Swinging neck tie,
plunging tube into chest.
My mouth agape in the corner.
Five days later,
I cry at her bedside, apologizing.
She asks me where her front tooth is.
Now they call me,
sometimes at 2 am.
“She can get the line. She’s really good.”
I tell all the interns
what I had to teach myself.
Needles can kill.
A difficult line.
I place it now quickly, safely.
The nurse claps.
The patient and I both cry.
All teeth are intact.