Tired and afraid

‘Tired and afraid’ is a poem that could be about any one of a number of patients I have met over the past few years. But its not. It’s about a man I recently met whose words are hard to forget. I doubt I was of much help.

The curtains pushed aside
Show an old man in bed.
Fear lives in two dark eyes
Staring from his tired head.

His knuckled grip is strong,
He shakes like a sailor,
But his next breaths are long,
Payment for his labor.

Underneath his sun-beaten shell,
Sliding sinews bring bones upright.
What his muscle memory might tell
Given time before the birth of night.

The chart shows no sign of fever
And his heart beats just as it should,
The numbers say he’ll live forever,
All of the peaks and troughs look good.

My gut knows the answer,
But I ask anyway,
I am here to help you,
Why are you here today?

He says, my problem’s this,
Then looks me in the eye,
I’m just too tired to live
And I’m too afraid to die.

Old letter

Literary Medicine


Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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