It’s the feeling I get in right before they roll in. It’s the look in the surgeon’s eyes, standing at the head of the bed with arms crossed, calculating the seconds, the options, the outcomes. It’s having nothing else to live for outside the hospital except a sister with her own life. It’s the feeling in my chest after helping create a good death- saving one spirit from that painfully slow deflating of life in the corner of a nursing home. It’s the thrill of the running, bursting into the OR, metal clashing open on the table and the stillness right before the scalpel touches, eyes locking over masks, listening to your heart pound like a war drum against your rib cage. It’s the swinging on an emotional pendulum of extremism – it’s a fucking high and I’m a slave for it. An addiction that sprouted from young bones lying awake at night, nerves as tight as guitar strings, waiting for the screaming, the crashing. Honestly, it was Mr. Castillo. It was seeing him talk for the first time after we took him off the ventilator. It was seeing him walk out of the hospital, talking with his wife. It’s seeing his chart still empty since he left, knowing he’s still at home, still living a normal life. It’s the boulder that had been crushing my chest as I ran behind him, the gushing blood nearly audible as it filled his belly like a balloon from his ruptured aorta. Knowing he was going to die while also knowing I couldn’t take the pain again, I hadn’t healed from the last one yet. Until he didn’t.
And somehow, the pain was gone.