Reflexes

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Reflexes show we are alive, they are a simple something that signify everything it means to live.
When tiny fingers wrap around yours, life pauses, but never stops. When you're a student nurse, you get the pleasure of the beauty of living just by showing up.

Disclaimer: This poem is based on general experiences and not individuals, poetic licence is used to a certain extent and as such this poem is not a direct reflection of any practice. It is first and foremost a poem about how small things in life become significant based on experiences that we go through, it just so happens that as a student nurse my experiences are nursing and medical based.

Submitted: October 16, 2016

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Submitted: October 16, 2016

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Her hand closes around my little finger,

It’s a reflex,

But so is moving your hand away from the hot hob that you just leant on,

It serves a purpose.

 

It tells me she’s alive,

It’s a given, really,

I can see her little breaths running all the way through her tiny body,

See her heart beats on a screen above her.

 

I would only be a small part in her life,

Just like the other babies’.

I couldn’t do much, not for her, not for the babies around her,

But that didn’t stop me caring.

 

Caring: “Displaying kindness or concern for others”.

It is in my job description,

It’s what I do, by choice. It’s who I am, by whatever mechanism forms a personality.

But this is not my domain.

 

My people, they are bigger than this,

A lot bigger,

A lot bigger than the little premature baby I am learning from,

Learning to care for.

 

The first time you hold a baby a lot happens,

It’s biological,

But the first time you hold a brain… I don’t know the biology. Or the psychology,

But I do know it’s surreal.

 

You see a six foot tall man,

He is lying on a metal table,

He could be asleep, but he is pale, and cold as your gloved hand brushes against him,

As you move to see his organs.

 

You’ve seen the heart, lungs,

Bowels, tongue, brain,

Each in turn as they were taken from his body with a system as routine as surgery,

For a moment you forget.

 

For a moment,

Then you remember,

As you are surprised by the weight of the brain, the fluid in the oedematous lungs,

Don’t smoke.

 

The patches of tar,

The firmness of the heart,

You remember that these were in a man only a short while ago. These made up a man.

As you touch the cause of death.

 

You feel the coronary artery,

You can see it blocked,

So small in comparison to the man in front of you,

And yet so significant.

 

You hold the brain,

Feel its weight,

Its consistency, its memories, thoughts, dreams, the emotions it felt,

And the things that numbed them.

 

And yet in your hands it is no longer any of that,

It becomes a brain,

But in the head of a man, it enables survival, conscious, memories, it is beautiful,

All in the weight of a preemie.

 

When her fingers grasped mine,

She had been fighting,

She was on the home straight now, sleeping and growing,

And growing quick.

 

When I say quick,

I mean it,

She had nearly quadrupled in weight since she was born,

And she was still growing.

 

Her friend in another bed,

Set off alarms,

Only to get comfy and then them silence, only to panic her parents,

And this student nurse.

 

Big people, they are less frightening,

They may hit harder,

Fall easier, shout louder, make mistakes, be harder to move,

But they’re bigger,

 

More familiar.

You know they can survive,

But babies, preemies, they survive, like little miracles of science.

They are bumblebees,

 

Unaware of the science,

That says they can’t fly,

They thrive, with greater strength than any grown adult I have come across,

They live.

 

When you hold a brain in your hands,

It gives you perspective,

It gives you an understanding of what it is to think and feel,

Not to simplify life.

 

When you hold heart,

That has since ceased to beat,

It makes every heartbeat stronger, louder, more meaningful,

Just for beating.

 

When you watch the tracing,

Run out of a machine,

Like a magic blur of movement and lines that to the trained eye signify something,

Signify health or illness,

 

Signify life,

Or death.

When you feel the surface of a lung, it makes every breath worth more than air,

More than every missed breath.

 

So when you watch,

Watch the miracle of medicine,

A miracle of life, breathing, a heart tracing signifying they are alive,

See a brain scan,

 

An opening eye,

A grasping hand,

They carry the weight of that three pound brain, and everything that it signified.

It holds the sentiment of a heart.

 

Each breath,

Aided or not.

Each rise and fall of a chest, each conversation, each tear, each thought

Carries breaths not taken

 

When her fingers curled around mine,

A hand pulling away from heat,

Deep breaths after a pause, they are beautiful moments, significant in their simplicity,

They are reflexes

 

They show we are alive.

 

 

 


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