Each of the empty rooms still holds the memory of a patient. I think of the man who loved sugary sweet iced coffee and the Red Sox. He died with one of our interns at his bedside holding a phone to his ear for his family to say goodbye.
I pause in a doorway, remembering a grandmother with red nails and tattooed eyeliner who had been looking forward to a trip to Florida with her family. She died, too.
When I reach the corner room, I smile about the gamble we took when we decided to extubate a young cabdriver the night before a surgery that would have connected him more permanently to the ventilator. He made it out of the unit. I would like to think he’s home by now.
The first time I walked down these halls, it seemed to me that the very air itself was poison. Those were the days when we were not sure how long we would have to wear each N95 mask. We saved them in Tupperware or in the small basins that patients use if they need to vomit.