Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

My Break – Work and Family – In OR 5

Steve Cushman
Greensboro, North Carolina, United States



Poet’s statement: All three of these poems have to do with the “other” lives of healthcare workers. We see doctors, nurses, and X-ray technologists in the hospital, and and we expect them to be fully engaged in the work they do, but most of them have other interests, and sometimes it is these stolen moments that allow them to come back to their patients fresh and whole again.


My break

At work each day, I steal away
from my patients for five minutes
and head to the hospital’s library where I read
a poem from one of the journals there.
For those five minutes, in my cubby,
nobody knows where I am and I
can pretend I am not a doctor,
someone who is constantly asked
to give and give, but just another man
set out into this world of words and images
and people, beautiful and simple and complicated too.

Digital hookup

Digital Hook Up, 2011
Patricia Kushner
Acrylic on canvas
72”x 48”



Imagine, 2011
Patricia Kushner
Acrylic on canvas
84”x 60”

Work and family

On my first day of work as an X-ray tech,
I asked Miguel about KV and MAS. He shook his head,
said let’s not make this any harder than it has to be.
When I asked about radiation and photons, he
said just push the button with the red X. But when I asked
about his family, he called me “Papi,” pulled out his wallet
and family photos, started telling me about his wife Anna,
and his daughters, Claire and Isabella, and we talked for hours.


In OR 5

When the surgeon begins to sing
the old Beatles song, “Eight Days a Week,”
we all look up from our paperwork
and charts and monitors. Dr. Barry
is in his fifties and tall and the best
heart surgeon at the hospital. I’ve
never seen him smile, much less than sing,
but there he is among the hum of the
anesthesia and blood perfusion
machines, his voice tiny and sure
and I wonder if he even realizes what
he is doing, if he is lost in a memory
filled with this song or if he is at his
happiest here in the operating room
where he is king, where each day
everything is laid out for him and all
he has to do are the things he does best.


Odyssey, 2011
Patricia Kushner
Acrylic on canvas
84”x 60”



STEVE CUSHMAN, RT(R), MFA, has published two novels as well as a short story collection, Fracture City. For the past twenty years, he has worked as an X-ray technologist and currently works at Moses Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.


About the artist

PATRICIA KUSHNER was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Her work has involved painting, sculpture, and collage and has been exhibited in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and the Czech Republic. She presently lives and paints at her studio in the South Okanagan region of British Columbia, Canada. Visit her website: patriciakushner.com.


Artist statement: For most of my life, I have been creating art, working with my ideas about people, emotions, and feelings. In my work, I wish to capture and portray, not the physical or external self, but more importantly, our inner selves, our relationships to each other, and the world at large. The human figure is the genesis of my work. I have created a simplified human figure to express the essence of who we are. The figures I use represent our human selves, evolving and growing in a rapidly changing and complicated world. It is my vehicle to talk about us, as people, living in the shifting landscape of our contemporary lives. When working with ideas about communication, I feel there is a whole world within each person, a world rarely seen due to societal, cultural, and other limitations, which form a barrier to true communication and to our really “knowing” one another, to seeing into each others hearts or souls. Will burgeoning technologies and mass global communication take us into the future as a glorious tapestry of humanity, or will we draw back, become more insular, fearful, and alienated from each other?

Highlighted in Frontispiece Winter 2013 – Volume 5, Issue 1
Winter 2013  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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