Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Taking a History in the ICU: Social: Does your husband still smoke?

Sophia Valesca Görgens
Atlanta, Georgia, United States


Photo by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash

He smokes when he thinks I’m not looking,
she tells me, then glances at him as if
expecting him to contradict her

but the ventilator is pressed to his face
and his eyes are lidded dim with midazolam
for sedation, fentanyl for pain. There is pain

in her words, her body, and she turns her chair so
our knees almost touch and the monitors murmur
out of sight. How does he expect to live,

she asks, when he unhooks himself from his oxygen,
leaves the tank by the patio door and wanders
out into the yard, shuffling slow and gasping

for that inhale of smoke. She blames herself. Marriage
and forty years of smoking together, her own lungs
still steady. When he asked her for solidarity, she couldn’t






SOPHIA VALESCA GÖRGENS, is a medical student at Emory University School of Medicine. She went to undergrad at Boston College where she studied biology and English with a concentration in creative writing.


Winter 2019  |  Sections  |  Poetry

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