There one minute, gone the next.

I wonder what it is like from a patient’s perspective

One minute their neighbour is there

And the next they are gone.

Screens are shuffled around the bed

And then they are removed

And he with them.

And again.

Lifeless body after

Lifeless body.


I wonder if they wonder

Where they go,

The lifeless bodies.

A new bed appears in their place.

Fresh linen, clean sheets.

And no one talks about where they go.

I wonder if they understand

When we stand at their feet

And one of us says ‘doesn’t qualify for ICU’

And we make a special mark on their file.

Doesn’t qualify.

That the value of their life is being reduced to a scoring system.

I wonder what they think

When the man across from them

Begs the doctor

“Help me! I can’t breathe!”

And she does nothing.

There is nothing she can do.

She does everything

Everything is not enough.

I wonder if they are afraid.

The ones who are conscious enough to be afraid.

I wonder if the old man

Who looks at me with desperate eyes

Knows that he is dying.

I wonder if the ones who take so long to go

Are waiting for something.

Like the couple who hung onto threads of life,

Day after day,

And then died within hours of each other.

I wonder if they think we are heartless

Because we show no emotion.

We write:

Assessment: Patient demised

Plan: Death notification, inform family.

Then we wash our hands.

And go back to whatever we were doing before they were gone.

I wonder how their family members find the grace

To thank us

Minutes after we shatter their world.

I wonder if their souls

Leave this tin-can hospital.

Or do they stay and wait for

A daughter or husband or nephew who they know is on the way.

I wonder if the names of the deceased

Live on in the pages

And pages

And pages

Of death notifications.

I wonder if the ones who make it out alive

The so-called COVID-survivors

Will remember their neighbour

Who was there one minute

And gone the next.

10 thoughts on “There one minute, gone the next.

  1. There are no words in those desperate times that can Embrace this description of death it is factual emphatic and a new reality one we have no experience of dealing with .
    Strength safety and aVery Big Thank You to Everyone on the Front line 🙏 ❤ 🙌


  2. Mind-blowingly put and so important to share. This is hell for the patients but the toll on the medical professionals concerned must also be shy-high. A friend who survived 5 days of ICU during the second wave said he will never forget the people who died while he was there because he thought he would be joining them. He also says he saw terrible things that he just cannot unsee. Battling now with PTSD and survivor guilt. It seems everyone concerned suffers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very powerful and most meaningful writing, Kleindokter. I have distributed it to all consultants in the Dept of Medicine at Tygerberg. We are all struggling to cope with the 3rd wave, but none of us could have put it in words like you. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow!!!! Well written. My daughter is a doctor at George Hospital (Internal Medicine) and she sent this to me. You guys have my hugest respect for what you have to deal with on a daily basis. Thank you for what you do 🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow! I did my internship there and some Locum time in internal medicine. Might be on my way back there! It’s a brilliant department. Maybe your daughter and my path’s will cross one day. Thank you for the kind words


  5. I have had these questions on my mind since 29th June 2021. My friend of 50 years had pain which doctors could not identify. Within three weeks she was told that she is riddled with cancer, contacted covid and was gone 5 days later.
    I did not get to say goodbye.
    What was going through her mind? I will never know. I am a cancer survivor times two, have pulmonary fibrosis am a type 1 diabetic and am so blessed to be as healthy as I am. What was going through her mind, I will never know.

    Liked by 1 person

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