THE METRONOME by Richard Novak, M.D. (as published in ANESTHESIOLOGY, Mind to Mind Section 2012: 117:417)
To Jacob’s mother I say,
“The risk of anything serious going wrong…”
She shakes her head, a metronome ticking without sound.
“with Jacob’s heart, lungs, or brain…”
Her lips pucker, proving me wrong.
“isn’t zero, but it’s very, very close to zero…”
Her eyes dart past me, to a future of ice cream and laughter.
“but I’ll be right there with him every second.”
The metronome stops, replaced by a single nod of assent.
She hands her only son to me.
An hour later, she stands alone,
Pacing like a Palace guard.
Her pupils wild. Lower lip dancing.
The surgery is over.
Her eyebrows ascend in a hopeful plea.
I touch her hand. Five icicles.
I say, “Everything went perfectly. You can see Jacob now.”
The storm lifts. She is ten years younger.
Her joy contagious as a smile.
The metronome beat true.
The Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital presented an audio recording of The Metronome at Perspectives on Anesthesia, at Boston City Hall Plaza as part of HUBweek, Boston’s festival of innovation, in October 2017.