Yesterday, I was a Mammal

But unfortunately, it’s today

Natalie C. Morris
Human Parts
Published in
3 min readJan 3, 2024

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Photo by Ömer Yıldız on Unsplash

It’s 2020. I’m outfitted head to toe in used personal protective equipment, including an N95 mask that has been used, disinfected to hospital standards, and is now mine. When my shift is over, I will place it delicately in a paper bag with my name, taped to the tile wall in the staff bathroom with the droves of others. It is scratchy on my face, but my larger concern is more critical; my patient’s monitor is alarming, and for good reason. Her blood pressure is suddenly extremely low. I’m in her room, silencing the sounds but assessing and analyzing my next move. This woman is quickly dying in front of my face.

I know what needs to be done, but I hate it.

Unresponsive to a sternal rub, she has no pulse. I hit the “code blue” button on the wall, and drop the bed to CPR mode to begin compressions on this frail human body. I feel the familiar snap of an aged body’s ribs breaking under my palms. The same ribs that drew and expelled her last voluntary breath of air, just moments ago. I wonder if she ever thought about how she might die, and what in this life brought her joy. I wished I could pump those memories into her, as I knew her outcome would be poor. While I compress her chest, I begin to dissociate, a self protective mechanism I’d acquired after starting to work in the hospital environment. My…

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Natalie C. Morris
Human Parts

Tumbleweed nurse based in New Mexico, riding and writing her way around the American West (on her days off).