Anesthesiology:
doi: 10.1097/ALN.0b013e318212517d
Education: Mind to Mind

Emergence

Shafer, Audrey M.D.*
Section Editor(s): Cassella, Carol Wiley M.D., Editor

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EMERGENCE
is precious
the way birth is holy
breathing on your own
you blink in the light
you are here, you are you
a smooth emergence takes practice
patience, often luck –
if I can slip the tube out
just as bandage touches skin
and your breath mists the mask just so
it is a thing of beauty
slick, smooth, sweet
I have been kissed within moments
I've been hugged and asked
Is it over? or even
When are they going to start?
anesthesia time is a blackboard eraser
sweeping through chalk dust
but emergence can be ugly
you gag and buck
anything to cough out
that tube of life lodged in your throat
and I have seen emergence worse than ugly
hands in a pus filled belly
the surgeon had said
Smell that? smells like a tortilla – that's pseudomonas
then irrigated, done
I pulled the tube from his throat
and with the tube, a scream – an unearthly shriek
his chest arched from the table
as if a murderer twisted a dagger in his back
I asked Are you in pain? Do you remember anything?
but like a shadow deepening to night he whispered No
No he said hoarsely I wanted to die
emergence is hard
I learned that day
if you had embraced oblivion
and I pulled you back.

© 2011 American Society of Anesthesiologists, Inc.

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