Swallowing Glass

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I realize that my narrative medicine posts have been morose but the stories have been writing themselves. My career has been mostly joyous but these stories of suffering, my own and my patients’ need to be told.

Friday Fictioneers
Photo copyright @Marie Gail Stratford

Swallowing Glass
By Tracey Delaplain, MD

Like swallowing shards of glass, that’s what it feels like.

I stared vacantly through the blood red crystals and replayed the last minutes in the operating room. All the protective doctor speak couldn’t isolate me now.

“A chance to cut is a chance to cure.” “The mets always win.” “All bleeding stops eventually.”

The bleeding didn’t stop until the last heart beat. The cancer wasn’t supposed to win this time but it did. The one chance to cure had eluded us. The mets won again and my patient died, her precious blood crystallizing on the operating room floor.

One tear, one dose of swallowed glass and I have to go back and take another chance.



27 Comments Add yours

  1. Arl's World says:

    A glimpse into the doctor’s world …What a sad story Tracey, but very well written. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Arl. I never forget the privilege of experiencing life and death.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Faced with situations like this all the time it has to be so difficult to cope but then when there is the patient that is cured and thrives is has to be so rewarding. This was a beautifully written post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. More rewards than tragedy Suzanne. But the tragedies are never forgotten.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nan Falkner says:

    Good story Tracy and I think swallowing glass would be horrible! I don’t even like really stale chips. Hope you have a good week! Nan 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Nan, grief and stale chips do go down easier with a margarita. Just saying.


  4. I think your POV is going to bring more wonderful stories like this one to FF.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sandra says:

    Powerful story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Sandra. I think sometimes patients don’t understand how their suffering effects us.


  6. milliethom says:

    I agree: a powerful story. A sad ending to this visit to the operating room – but, as you say, there are more rewards than tragedies in your line of work. That’s a comforting thought. Well written, Tracy, 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. plaridel says:

    “like swallowing shards of glass…” now i know doctors have feelings, too. i always thought that they are no longer humans. great story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Plaridel, your comment makes me a little sad. We know that we’re human but maybe we need to make sure our patients know that too. Thank you for commenting.


  8. mjlstories says:

    Powerful writing. I love that you’re bringing your life experience to these 100 words. Very moving.
    Just one thing – I would have liked just a line to know just a little more of who ‘she’, the patient, was.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Miranda for your observation. I admit this piece was meant to be self-centered and really about the angst of being a surgeon. “She” represented a compilation of many losses.


  9. draliman says:

    A powerfully-written glimpse into the world of doctor and terminally ill patient. Very sad.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, death is always sad even when we expect it.


  10. hafong says:

    I saw it all – the movie played in my mind. You must have put it there. Well written!


    Liked by 1 person

  11. Dear Tracey,

    Magnificent. The POV in your story gives us much to think about. Beautifully done and heartfelt.



    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Rochelle. I have 31 years of stories wanting to be told and flash fiction is a perfect vehicle. I’m so glad to be a part of FF.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. dmmacilroy says:

    Dear Tracey,

    Powerful drug, your writing. Do not stop.

    Thanks and Aloha,


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Doug. These stories seem to be writing themselves and I’m along for the ride. 🙂


  13. It must be terrible every time it happens.. I wouldn’t like to have to harden myself against such pain.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We do need a thick skin to be physicians but I never want to be hardened. I hope that shows in my work. Thank you Bjorn.


  14. What a well-drawn and humanizing depiction of the lives doctors lead. I’ve always been amazed that people of the same species as I can do all this. Hatts off!

    Liked by 1 person

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