Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Happy hypoxia

Khyati Gupta
Mumbai, India

Hospital room
Scots Mission Hospital, Tiberias (Torrance). Hospital beds. Photo. Matson Collection, c. 1934-39. Library of Congress. Via Wikimedia. Public domain.


Poet’s statement: Happy hypoxia is a poem I wrote while trying to capture the thoughts of a patient in solitude infected with coronavirus amidst the second wave of the pandemic.


I wake up at the noise of a tray put next to my bed
I know what’s in it even before I open my eyes
I can almost feel the taste of the dry hospital porridge, or should I say the blandness of it?
I sigh, as I twist around in my hard white bed
Call it my nutshell since the past two weeks
New day but the same story

The nurse gives me her usual big smile,
I return it with my nonchalant unconcern
Her eyes are one of the only two pairs I’ve seen in these past few weeks
I prefer hers over the other pair, for the latter always seems to bring me bad news

As if on cue, the doctor enters the room
I embrace myself as he glances at the latest set of my labs
Turns out my body is still being hostile to oxygen and over enthusiastically breaking down clots
He leaves me with a parting gift of a new drug lot

I can hear them screaming for a crash cart outside my room
It is followed a few minutes later by the noise of a different kind of trolley
There’s a chill aura of death recurring in the air
Yet one can never get used to it
I pray for their family as I close my eyes

I think of my daughter as I pick up the glass of water
The feel of her tiny arms around my neck, so powerful that it counters the bitterness any drug has to offer
If only I could see her one more time

I press the nurse’s call button besides my bed
I know it’s too late, my lungs scream for breath
A minute ago they were fine now my veins feel like sandpaper
My heartbeat escalates, it’s the thunder before the storm
One more tick in the column of happy hypoxia,
Just another loss for the most advanced species of the world



KHYATI GUPTA is a 20-year-old MBBS student in her second year at Nair Hospital, Mumbai. She is an avid reader and enjoys writing poetry, prose, blogs and short fictional stories. Her other hobbies are basketball, in which she is state certified, and singing. She works in the PR team for a non-profit organization called Mukti, which means freedom in Hindi, providing help to youngsters against substance use disorder.


Winter 2022  |  Sections  |  Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.