Saying Goodbye

There are moments as an anesthesiologist you can’t erase.  

No matter how long you go home and sleep, or how many days pass, you won’t forget it. 

All of these moments involve saying goodbye; while the scenarios change, the message is the same.  

It is sacred, like watching the exchanging of vows.  

They are precious, real, moments, where you want to freeze time, let the embraces, the hugs, go on and on, but the ability to say hello again lies in your ability to get to the operating room and safely deliver a new liver, new heart, or new lungs. 

I watched her lean over him, her brown hair falling over the bed as she tucked it behind her ear so she could kiss him. 

He leaned up, his arms tangled from the arterial line and peripheral lines my resident had placed moments before so we could safely anesthetize him.  

They embrace, only seconds, but the moments hung in the air like an eternity.  

We all looked away, slid back, quietly trying to blend in without causing the slightest noise. 

All of us held our breath.  

It could be the last goodbye.  

We work tirelessly – the entire team – so it is not.  

Sometimes the goodbye is hours later.  Despite all the work, we can’t deliver another hello.  

But not this time.  

She will kiss him again. He will hug her again. 

We all breathe now.  

But we don’t forget.