2016 Hippocrates NHS First Prize winner Denise Bundred
A Cardiologist Seeks Certainty
I spread cold gel on a newborn chest
rest the probe on creamy skin, angle
between ribs, rotate to find a heart
no larger than the tiny fist
pushing me away.
Two dimensions defy translation into three
as I locate chambers
amid the maze of vessels.
A millimeter of movement and the image melts
to snowstorm on my screen.
I re-trace arcs of ultrasound to relieve
|the twist of doubt.
Adrenalin dries saliva as I strive to decide
whether the aorta arches
to the left or right.
The nurse checks the prescription
against an ampoule, initials in black ink
secure in her certainty of drug and dose.
The surgeon weighs my words
to determine his incision
shape his operation
as the incubator trundles towards theatre
escorting mother and the nurse.
I resolve inconsistencies
into diagnosis, wipe the sweat
from my hands, write my notes;
make my decision.
© Denise Bundred
Denise Bundred trained as a paediatrician in Cape Town and as a paediatric cardiologist in Liverpool. After retiring, she completed an MA in Creative Writing. She has previously had seven poems commended and published in The Hippocrates Prize Anthologies between 2012 and 2015. In October 2013 she read at a Poetry and Medicine event at the Manchester Literature Festival. She has poems included in ‘The Book of Love and Loss’ (eds. J Hall and R.V. Bailey) which was published in 2014.
She said: “A Cardiologist Seeks Certainty is an attempt to capture the ache of anxiety as I struggled to define a complex problem in the chambers and vessels of a baby’s heart, often with the pressing need for urgent surgery.”