Winning Essay by Shivani R., University of Virginia

“CODE BLUE, Surgical ICU, Room 14.” “Mrs. Jones can you hear me?” I was taken aback by the stern voice. “Get back! Start the compressions! 1. 2. 3 ...” Thirteen minutes passed until the cold voice came back. “Stop the resuscitation. Raven Jones. 68 years old. Victim of police brutality. Time of death: 2:04 p.m.”

Today, I witnessed the death of a stranger.

I sat emotionless, watching the nurse part her eyelids one at a time glimpsing for a moment into the vacant eyes. Mrs. Jones lay still in the bed, looking much as she did when I saw her minutes ago: waxy lips, thin gray hair combed back neatly. We remain silent for a moment. I see her husband shift his weight on his crutches. Then, abruptly, he says, “I need help taking her ring off.” Eyes squeezed tight, face crumpling: “I don’t want to be the one to pull it off.”

In my bravest voice, I offer, “Would you like me to do it?” He nods, eyes still closed, head bowed.

I pull the covers back and gently lift the thin hand, still warm. I grab onto the fingertips and resolve not to be timid. The fingers are pliable in mine, and I loosen the fist easily. The hand is empty. The ring is a thin gold band with a white stone. With a firm, slow pull, it slides over the knuckle, scraping along with it a thin layer of something slightly wet — dried skin cells, maybe sweat or lotion. Emotions swarm over me as her voice replays in my head, only to be silenced by the harsh beeps of the heart monitor mere seconds before her death. I sat there wondering how I would ever become a doctor if I couldn’t even deal with the death of a lady I barely even knew. I found myself growing outraged that someone like Mrs. Jones could have ever been mistakenly shot on the streets of Birmingham, yet how many tens of thousands of others were out there who had stories as tragic as hers. At the very core of this crisis of mine, I felt somehow the life of medicine had chosen me.

I quickly jump out of the trance I had been in to see a lady being rushed to surgery. I skim her face through all the scrubs to see an elderly black lady. Adrian Booker. Room 14. That’s when I realize this is reality. Raven Jones was just one patient, with one family, in one hospital. As one leaves, another arrives. A new hope comes with every patient that enters the hospital, clutching onto the possibility of a brighter future. Although I will never be able to hear the end of Mrs. Jones’s story, my time at the hospital was not wasted. She solidified my belief that one day, I will be able to save a life. I will do the best I can; I will never give up; I will never accept failure.


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