I’ve always been intrigued by the lives of patients and their families before they come to us.  Here’s a sample of a project I’m working on.  It’s fictional, but anyone who knows the ER knows the painful resonance of the words the character is speaking.

9.                                   I would have bought her jewels.  I would have!  I would have bought her diamonds and rubies and emeralds.  I came to her with money.  I hoped that my family’s cash would be a solace to that poor, broken girl I met.  She seemed to be a princess in the rough.  She was my Cinderella, waiting for me to ride to her.  I saw in her weakness and sickness, her sadness and loneliness, the battle I was born for.  So I hoisted her into my arms and off I road.  We traveled and the climate disagreed with her; everything made her ache.  We shopped and no amount of gift, no extravagance of gown, show, purse or automobile could bring more than a moment’s smile.  It was only when we found the right doctor, the one she felt understood her, that I knew what she wanted.  She wanted brightly colored things, but the gems she desired had names unlike any geological rarity.  She wanted to be adorned with Percocet and Valium, with Lortab and Xanax, with Demerol and Dilaudid, Morphine and Methadone.  She said that the reason she had been miserable was that she was enduring, for years, indescribable pain.  She said that pills and capsules the color of bright stones would make her happy.  And she once, while deep in the throes of her anesthesia, actually threw herself into my arms and made love to me.  But in the morning, she could scarcely wake.  And the joy she felt apparently was a joy she could only feel in her dreams from then on.  Now, with all my money drained, I at last can travel with her, from town to town, clinic to clinic, hospital to hospital, where we (mostly I) concoct any story to obtain the jewels she wants most of all.  I have rescued her, I suppose, from anything approaching reality.  I am her genie of a million wishes, robbing the caves where pills lie hoarded up like shining treasure.  She does not suffer any longer.  Who now will rescue me, as my princess snores and dies a little each day by my side?

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