Education  |   May 2011
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Audrey Shafer, M.D.
  • *Stanford University School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California.
Article Information
Education / Gastrointestinal and Hepatic Systems / Respiratory System
Education   |   May 2011
Anesthesiology 5 2011, Vol.114, 1236-1237. doi:
Anesthesiology 5 2011, Vol.114, 1236-1237. doi:
is precious
the way birth is holy
breathing on your own
you blink in the light
you are here, you are you
a smooth emergence takes practice
patience, often luck –
if I can slip the tube out
just as bandage touches skin
and your breath mists the mask just so
it is a thing of beauty
slick, smooth, sweet
I have been kissed within moments
I've been hugged and asked
Is it over?  or even
When are they going to start? 
anesthesia time is a blackboard eraser
sweeping through chalk dust
but emergence can be ugly
you gag and buck
anything to cough out
that tube of life lodged in your throat
and I have seen emergence worse than ugly
hands in a pus filled belly
the surgeon had said
Smell that? smells like a tortilla – that's pseudomonas 
then irrigated, done
I pulled the tube from his throat
and with the tube, a scream – an unearthly shriek
his chest arched from the table
as if a murderer twisted a dagger in his back
I asked Are you in pain? Do you remember anything? 
but like a shadow deepening to night he whispered No 
No  he said hoarsely I wanted to die 
emergence is hard
I learned that day
if you had embraced oblivion
and I pulled you back.