English: Nurse beside patient, ca. 1920.

English: Nurse beside patient, ca. 1920. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Humanity Emergency” is an excellent book by Sarah Fraser  MD  (Soma Press Toronto) which offers what I call poems to jolt. The poems to jolt are designed to quickly take doctors and medical staff out of any state of inattentiveness or any state where they are lacking empathy and humanity.

In her “Humanity Emergency” collection of poems she repaints the addicts, the lost, the submerged, the defiant patients with the hand of a mother.  A sensitivity which I have myself lost by times.  Sarah Fraser shows me how far I had strayed from sensitivity, the natural home of a physician.


Poems to jolt

For example, the regret she confesses when she is casual with the patient who has recently being diagnosed with T- cell lymphoma. “i wish i could vacuum those words up reverse time or press edit  -undo.”

Again she beats her breast, in mea culpa, in “morning rounds.” The patient says that her mother is dying and Sarah asks the patient if has passed gas this morning.

Her sensitive eye does not take time off. In ”grace,” While in the shopping mall she notices an old man frozen before a meal.

And in “anatomical position” her hand touches the hand of the cadaver with the hand of a mother.

In her “frames of reference,” she trades the meaning of a straight line- from a poster to the arresting cardiac arrest. From child-like innocence to death. It all depends on the frame of reference.

In “patients,” she describes how impotent she sometimes feels to change a patient’s life. She acknowledges her sphere of influence: “people do what they want i just need to be ok with it.”

(It is worthy to note the small i which denotes herself, placing herself on the same eye level as the patient).

The patient’s disregard for the doctor’s advice is again stated in “teenage apathy and cervical adenopathy.”

In “addiction” she replays the focus , the desire, the circling, the cry of the addict for the bliss of cocaine.

What is refreshing and epiphanic for me is how she continues to sees the patients on the same level as her. She understands them. This is more difficult when we judge the patient.

Shock is spread from the hemorrhagic  patient to the daughter in shock with grief for her mother.

In “communication” she shows the failure of euphemisms.

The original lines such as “the pregnant belly of the pons…”

In “melodious” she sides with the defiant patient, who sings in the face of power. We know that if one is not on the patient’s side one is one the wrong side. We have no doubt which side Dr. Fraser is on.

Humanity has flat-lined in many places and sadly in hospitals as well. This collection of poems has the Joules to jolt us doctors back to humanity.


Striving for aeqaunimitas,


John Mary Meagher CFP


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