Poet Vicki VanEck Hill has been a friend of mine for many years. When I read her powerful poem INTINCTURE, I asked permission to print it. Normally, I would say, “Enjoy!” That’s not the right word. Perhaps, “Experience!”
I N T I N C T U R E
“..Healing is a creative act, calling for all the hard work and dedication needed for other forms of creativity”
~Bernard Siegel, Love, Medicine, Miracles
Should your colon rupture, avoid flu season concurrent with an ice storm,
Both elements of ER triage disaster in my case.
Combative drunks from roll-over car accidents will command the X-ray machines
Till the most combative one is held down by 4 security people,
His alcohol-anesthetized skull feels pain and I,
On a plane past pain writhe wait for him to settle down, wait my turn.
They permit my husband to use an illegal wrestling hold to settle him for the seconds
It takes for thrashing to stop long enough to x-ray Mr. Wiggle who goes to ICU so that after many hours,
I, too, can be x-rayed and told hastily, “Airaboveyourdiaphragm: YOU NEED SURGERY!”
These glad tidings are augmented by an offer I can’t refuse: painkillers 10 hours after lancing pain began,
Causing my later ride to hospital on hands and knees. I initialed the consents,
“Up to and including colostomy” and laughed when asked if I, word nerd, understood what that meant.
That week 16 strangers extended their arms and lay on cots until excused to waiting cookies,
Abundant liquids to restore them and prevent dizziness after donating a unit of blood.
Each then waited the requisite time paging through ruffled magazines or books they brought, or
Chatting with regular donors so that this day my life is saved:
Their garnet gifts given when, hours after surgery, my husband is forced away
As PA speakers confide tunefully, “CODE RED. CODE RED.”
He protests and at his height and width, cannot be budged by the head nurse,
Who escorts him saying, “There will be 30 people here in 30 seconds: we need the room
To save your wife.” I look past my feet and see the stricken gaze at me from the hall,
His massive ham hands hang as worn ribbons, his shock is burned into my mind’s eye.
Sepsis Sedation Scrub Scrape Sterilize Salvage Suture
Have brought me to this point where 60 hands now strive to keep blood within me.
Several mouths repeat the questions,
“Do you know your name?” “Do you know where you are?” “Do you know what day it is?”
Asked so often by such sober inflections I opt to add humor to the gravity:
“You act like I’m dying…same-o questions…don’t you know others?”
Heads turn in unison, pitying eyes signal, “She knows,” but only for a millisecond, then work resumes:
Needles jab into any spaghetti vein that will hold them: arms, legs, wrists, toes. I listen to numbers called out again and again: 50 over 18. Can this low number be my blood pressure?
I never knew it could be so low and one could live.
Six weeks later I enter my church’s hushed, darkened sanctuary:
It is Ash Wednesday. I walk up for communion by intinction.
The garnet droplets seep onto the consecrated body. A miracle: I live.
Written by Vicki Hill