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A Christmas Emergency Story

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

This is part of the Medical Humanities series on Op-Med, which showcases creative work by Doximity members. Do you have a creative work related to your medical practice that you’d like to share? Send it to us here.

This poem is an adaptation of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through God’s house
Patients were stirring, “Contact — bed 7, found a louse!”
The fluids were hung on the IV poles with care,
Since collection of UAs at intake was rare.

The patients were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of discharge danced in their heads;
Hospitalist in necktie, and surgeon in cap,
Had just settled down for their long call night’s nap.

When out in the bay there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the chair to see what was the matter.
Away to resus I flew like a flash,
Tore open the curtains and threw on my mask.

Lights, red and white, on the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
A bearded man in red suit, smelling slightly of beer.

The ambulance driver, gave ID for the sick,
Then the charge nurse called out, “This says he’s St. Nick.”
More rapid than AFib his medics they came,
And I whistled, and shouted, and called drugs by name;

"Now, epi! Now, Narcan! Give glucose! IV is in!
Calcium! Give mag! Now defib that rhythm!”
On the top of his chest, the tech bounced like a ball!
The nurses’ hands moved quickly, doing it all!

In that moment, I could feel what I could not see,
The spirit of St. Nicholas all around me,
They were nurses, technicians, and respiratory care,
All with families at home, but who chose to be there.

And then, in a pulse check, I felt it as proof.
The pulse had returned, “We have ROSC! ‘tis the truth!”
As I drew in my hand, an ET tube eight round,
Miraculously, St. Nick sat up with a bound.

“What is going on here? I have vital things to do!”
I spoke, he replied, “Ah, must’ve been my WPW.
I was at a work party, dancing with elves,
Dancer’s Dougie bumped me, I spilt beer on myself.”

Off I flew to give the family some happy news.
A Christmas delight afforded to far too few.
In the waiting room stood the woman clad in red,
Eight pacing reindeer parked outside was a sled;

She looked in my eyes, hopeful, the way families do,
With conviction that their loved one must have pulled through.
I smiled with joy and with teary eyes she knew,
St. Nick was our miracle — the reindeer cried too.

“Would you like to see him?” adding, “One at a time.”
The Mrs. stood, while hopeful reindeer formed a line;
When their eyes met, outside it started to snow,
And his droll little mouth did draw up like a bow.

She started, “Lay off the cookies! Put down the pipe!
This year’s gift is a Peloton. You’ll ride that bike.”
But most important, no matter what we do,
I will make sure every day you know I love you.”

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, an AMA dismissal.
To any person, may they be naughty or nice,
All sick are welcome here, we will be open all night!

What was your inspiration for this poem? Did other creative works influence your creation of this piece?

It is an adaptation of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas. It is supposed to be fun but also show appreciation for health care workers’ sacrifices during the holiday season. Especially this year, as they continue to work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Why did you choose poetry? What interests you about it?

I love how poetry makes reading fun and turns words to art. 

How long have you been writing poetry? What got you started? How do you relate it to your medical practice?

I’ve been writing poetry since I was a child. It was always just for fun. It can be a great way to work through thoughts and emotions.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your involvement in or views on arts in medicine?

I think that art is extremely important and an overlooked way of communicating in health care. Making room for humanities in health care can only improve public health education. 

Ashely Alker, MD, is an EM physician with a M.S. in public health. She is also a health policy advisor, author, and medical media consultant. She can be found on both Twitter (@aalkermd) and Instagram (aalkermd). Ashely was a Doximity 2019-2020 Fellow.

Image by Milkovasa / Shutterstock

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