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  1. Anne K Merritt
  1. Correspondence to Anne Merritt, 757 Orange St #3, New Haven, CT 06511, USA; akmerritt{at}

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She has wandered with me

since my first days as a physician—

an unassuming extension of my ears,

gently slung about a tattered collar,

patiently transmitting rubs, rhonchi, rales,

as I struggled to decipher them.

She has sealed herself against unfamiliar skins—

wrinkled, jaundiced, tattooed, inflamed—

to magnify each breath sound and heartbeat

of my patients.

I have squeezed her to the point of suffocation

between my trembling hands.

I have let her venture into the territory of blood-stained garments

while I maintain a safe distance.

I have dropped her to the cold, hard tiles

in moments of crisis.

She has, with loving grace,

been present for diagnoses

that struck me to the bone:


heart attack,


Her bell was the first to transmit the vibrant thump

of a newborn's heartbeat,

and her diaphragm the last to touch the breast

of a dying mother.

She and I have united

to triumph over the x-ray machine,

to discover a heart murmur,

to distinguish pneumonia from pulmonary edema,

to comfort the distressed with a healing touch.

In the austere halls of this hospital,

she has listened to my own heart pound

over 100 million times,

brushing aside those skipped beats,

my moments of self-doubt.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.