Sunday morning, COVID unit

Matt Dettmer


It dawns on me as I’m holding the frail wrist of a man I’ve talked to twice since he’s been in the hospital a week or more I’m losing count of how long we’re not supposed to go into the rooms unless we have to now I’m holding his wrist not his hand this isn’t a handshake if that is a gesture paired with the inquiry “how’re you doing today?” this is another version another assessment and it’s harder because I’m not looking in his eyes my eyes are on the numbers on the monitor and when some of them change I turn and rap on the glass and shout a little louder than I need to to be heard on the other side but I cannot afford not to be heard and I make sure I see a nod from someone that my voice has carried through and then I turn back to this man put my fingers on his wrist searching it’s harder than it usually is I’ve got gloves on tight and a trashbag blue gown tied behind me and a plastic shield that’s starting to fog I can’t touch it all I’ve got is the faint beat in his wrist in my fingers he’s breathing because we’re doing it for him with a machine he’s bleeding on the inside I’m on one side of the bed on the other there’s another doctor with a scope he’s squinting and turning his arms and his body trying to clip spurting blood in the stomach I’m trying to keep that blood moving around we’re pushing it into him squeezing it into him from the outside he’s got more of someone else’s blood in him than his own by now doesn’t matter it bleeds all the same I’m still holding his wrist telling myself it’s his heartbeat I’m feeling not my own and it dawns on me it’s the first person I’ve touched in the longest time. 

Author Bio

Matt Dettmer is a student in the Northeast Ohio MFA program in creative writing. He is also a physician who practices critical care and emergency medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. “Sunday morning, COVID unit” was previously published in Olney Literary Magazine.

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