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The Last Night On Call

Denise Bundred, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist.

Much of what I have achieved is because your door

is one door down from mine and that door

has always been open – from a Heart Surgeon

Headlights trace less frequently across the window

as I wait for him to complete his operation.

Notes pile every surface of my desk.

A treasure ship which holds lives reaching back

for more than twenty years.

I respond to the final clutch of emails,

sign last letters waiting in a tray. The surgeon

has laid claim to my office, asked me to leave

something of myself. Shelves filled with emptiness,

lines of dust where books and files once stood.

I check drawers in the metal cabinet,

close each with a hollow ring. In the lowest,

I find a letter of thanks in a childish hand,

a photo attached with a rusty paperclip

and a picture in a silvered frame.

The surgeon returns and places his Loupe lenses

in their wooden box, leaves them on the desk.

He describes how the baby sailed off bypass.

share in the exuberance of his achievement.

After he leaves, I snatch last minutes in Intensive Care,

savour the sparkle of adrenalin on my tongue.

I know I will crave its burn. The infant’s monitor

signals a stable rhythm. Bleeding is minimal

and flow of urine encouraging. I smooth the page,

write notes that others will read.

In my room, I hang the picture on the wall,

collect my briefcase, photo, letter.

I switch off the light, wedge the door open.

I align my thoughts towards departure, confident

in the surgeon’s skills to care for all I leave behind.

I thread wakening streets untangling emotions.

A picture made from pansy shells waits on the wall.

A hoard of sand-dollars conveys a friendship; passes something on.


I worked for a superb children's heart surgeon and when I retired he wrote me a letter, and I have included a few lines of it at the beginning of this poem.

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