Eliana Rohr is a fourth year medical student at McGill University.
Picture of Eliana Rohr

The day I first wore you,
I also wore pride.
A student’s dream come true.
Joining the ranks of those
tasked with saving lives.
Pristine and crisp,
free of stain because it knows none,
the algorithm’s final verse
faithfully sung since admission.

Cue the first week of wards
curtains open to a simple task,
overseeing two patients:
A lady with grey hair and warm almond eyes.
Fated to a room two doors from an exit sign
with no chance of returning home.
Empty words morph into progress remarks.
Embracing the flux of visiting family members,
whose joyful expressions would ultimately dim.
The second, an older man once a builder by trade,
whose brain became captive to metastasis,
spirit held hostage to depression.
He will be discharged in a few days.
Some return home.
Some succumb to algorithm.

My story marches onwards.
To new rotations! To new heights!
I have my uniform on
that should be enough.
But it is never enough.
The imaging wrong.
The diagnostic inconclusive.
Treatment refractory.

As time’s current takes its toll
the memory of our first encounter fades to a blur.
Unclear of who I am anymore.
A fraud followed by an eerie whisper:
what’s the point?

Oh white coat-
Donning you each day with the promise of clarity
and confidence yet you belittle the lives we cannot save.
How many times can
I auscultate a broken heart
or hear breath sounds against a tortured chest wall,
order fluids to a being replete of self?
How does one go out to dinner when recently invited
to accompany death?

Approaching the final chapter.
Time is fleeting and time stands still.
Duality engulfs my vision at each turn
I’m teetering between
and loss.
Yet like an instinctive reflex
off my hanger you fall,
caressing the palm of my hand.
Wrinkled and worn out.

My steadfast armor,
You are taken not in pride
or in overbearing confidence
but with humility.

Your guiding strength
lies in an everlasting routine.
It comes down to the choice.
Presenting itself each day
to enter a patient’s room.
Uncertain if
knowing very well
that behind the door,
awaits answers void of pristine
walls stained by affliction. Inexplicable.

your very embrace bears witness
in moments when it is easier to retreat,
than be face-to-face with
Every stain of blood
Every sweat
Every tear.
I will forever see you.

We enter
as the proverbial blank page.
Gifted the life of a person
intersecting with our own.
Though no oath guards against pages marked
with incurable disease, boundless grief,
and mortality,
We stand strong for these moments,
Take part in the sadness,
Experience the depths,
To appreciate the beauty of it all.