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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:
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.
Competing interests None.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.