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A Piece of My Mind
April 16, 2014


Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania
JAMA. 2014;311(15):1499. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.2159

ECMO row is lined with bodies.

I reached between the dialysis machine and the balloon pump to hold the hand of one of them. It was cold and mottled and stiff, and eventually I gave up in my attempts to grasp the fingers and just rested my hand on top of them. Not so for the body’s wife, who had contorted herself to fit between various machines, intertwined her fingers with those of the body’s other hand, and rested her head on its chest, the only part that was still pink enough to resemble her husband. Eventually she stood to let her heavily pregnant daughter take over, and the bile rose in my throat as I watched the cold hand stay frozen in the position she had left it. I wondered how long he had been dead, and whether the grim-faced intensivist, bent over the ECMO cannula, could see what I saw.