September 4, 2021

The past few weeks have been a wild ride in my world. Our already short-staffed clinic has been hit by Covid quarantines, so that those of us who remain are covering for others in addition to our own roles. Stress levels have been through the roof, tempers short, and I’ve questioned the point of it all, when caring for others feels devoid of actual care . . . we are all so weary that our hearts can’t even break any more.

Today was supposed to be a lighter day, so I was placed as the sole assistant to the doctor seeing patients. But emergencies don’t follow appointment schedules. I found myself alone in a room, gloved hands pressed down to provide pressure for an open wound on a woman’s chest, while the doctor went to get surgical supplies. I felt the rhythm of her pulse as I watched it beat on her neck, and the only sound in the room was that of her breath. After a few minutes it occurred to me that maybe I should say something soothing, but she was so calm it didn’t seem necessary—accustomed, I suppose, to the sorts of medical trials that go along with end-stage renal disease. Her marked calm remained throughout the procedure, and, once stitched and bandaged, she started to get up on her own, hesitating a moment before accepting my outstretched arm. We were alone again, the doctor rushing on out as soon as the bandage was secure. “Have a good weekend,” I offered, questioningly. “You too,” she smiled. And with that, it was on to the next bit of the business of the day.

First though, I paused. I breathed a prayer of gratitude for the lifeblood that pulses through us all; I felt its fragile power.

*while this post is a departure from my recent series of Afgh@nistan memories, it seems fitting to use a photo from that season of my life. A vibrant red of another sort of grounding loveliness: my discovery of the roses of K@bul.

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