I live a few blocks from NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. This is a huge complex that is essentially two ivy-league medical schools (Columbia and Cornell) and a cluster of Hospital units. It is considered one of the most comprehensive university hospitals in the world, and is currently the largest private employer in New York City. People like Malcolm X, Richard Nixon and Jim Henson died there. It’s where Sunny von Bülow “vegged” out.

NYPH has a palpable demographic impact on this area of the city. If I walk south from my apartment, I see people in scrubs. And it feels less like I live in the Dominican Republic. I’ve always been a bit ambivalent about this. The NYPH vibe is a bit snotty and “white.” I like the fact that Dominican political candidates come to my hood to campaign for elections that are happening on the island.

Fort Washington Ave, cuts right through NYPH. So there is a stretch of it where you are basically in the Hospital. One of my options for bike routes down town takes me through that stretch and from time to time I see things that are poetically potent.

There was one a few years back that has etched itself in my mind:
There’s a small courtyard/garden at one point. Sitting on a bench I saw a young doctor talking very quietly and carefully to a man in a robe with his head in his one remaining hand. The evident struggle in this man to find a way to keep going after the amputation of his arm was shattering. And the struggle in this young doctor to find a way to cut through the futility of words…. It was just a moment, but I can’t shake it. Of course it might have been nothing. It might have been a life-long amputee with the flu listening to his son explain why he’s quitting medical school. But the image stuck.

Then a couple days ago, while waiting for a light to change:
I watched a hearse negotiate some construction to pull up to a door on the side of one of the buildings, around the corner from the bustling main entrances. I see ambulances around there a lot, and I wondered if this hearse was unusual. If I just haven’t been noticing them. Or again if it was nothing. In any case, the image is sticking…

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One Response to “Images”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    A few years ago I was driving down 280 on my way home. There was absolute chaos with the kids in the car and I was frazzled. It was just after sunset. At Pagemill, an ambulance pulled out in front of us and I could see a man on a gurney in the back. The man was sitting upright and I could see his face. His eyes were closed. The lower part of his face was obscured by an oxygen mask. Hands would come into view. The paramedics were working on him. Carefully, but you could tell there was urgency in their movements. I remember the man bathed in this yellowish white light from inside the ambulance and hands reaching into view from time to time and because it was dark it looked like he and those hands were floating through the night. All around people are slogging through the commute and like me absorbed in their little dramas and here was this man completely surrendered to a struggle and these hands working to bring him through. Every time I pass that exit that image runs through my mind.