Skip to main content

Olivia Myrick, MS4, OB/Gyn

He always lied. Everyone seemed to know it but him.

Every morning, new abscesses peppered his arms. Used needles were found in his trashcans. Lighters and matches peeked out of the bandages that swathed the scarred appendages where healthy legs used to be.

Every afternoon his peripheral IV’s would be ripped from their insertion sites. He would insist it was a nurse, a doctor, an aide who must have yanked out the needles and shredded his veins. He would shrug his shoulders and scratch a new welt that oozed from his elbow.

Every night, pagers would beep. He was found on the floor of his bathroom, high as a kite. He was found disconnected from his antibiotics and roaming the floor. He was found raiding sharps containers. He was found hoarding medication. He was found crushing medication. Injecting medication. New abscess on his neck. His penis. His wrist. His gaping wounds.

“We are worried about you… We think something is going on… Do you use drugs? … Do you need help? … We are here for you… We are worried about you.”

He has never done drugs. He tried drugs once. He has never done drugs. He used to do drugs, but hasn’t in months. He has never done drugs. He has no idea what you mean. Why do you keep asking me that?

One day there was no IV access. Too many lines had been torn from their sites. Too many veins had been opened and scarred. He smiled. He snickered. He sneered and shrugged his shoulders. He looked at the bag hanging above him—disconnected, once again, from the decaying body it could save. Guess the only thing you can do now is give me a central line… Give me a line that goes straight to my heart…

We looked at the needles in the trashcan. The skin pops on his forearms. The heavy bag of medication swollen with disuse. The sensitivities… Pending… R, R, R, R, R, R……

We thought of the lines that go straight to the heart. Straight to the heart and out through the blood stream, pooling and healing the rotting red flesh. Attached and secure and nonstop and relieving. We thought of washing our hands of this face oozing lies. One direct line and he’d have all he needs. The only sure thing for a cure.

We thought of the lines that go straight to the heart. Popped with a needle the second we turned, filled with the next hit he keeps on denying. Tempting and open and nonstop and fatal. We thought of calling a code on this face oozing lies. One direct line and he’d have all he needs. The only sure way to die.

“No more lines.”

No more lines? But how will you save me?

Saving was relative. Death would be certain. The dice would not be rolled. At first, do no harm. Change the medications. Pills. Pills every day. Pills and labs. Labs and pills and more and more skin pops. Call the police. Call a committee. Call an ethics consult. Call his nurse. Call another nurse. Call the police, again.


Then, one day, one lab read ‘positive’.

That day, they said, he cried.

The man with the lies—with the smirking and laughing and shirking and sneaking—the man with the lies stopped and cried. He cried in silence, and no police were called and no nurses sent pages. He cried and no needles were found on his floor. He cried and his wounds, they finally stopped oozing. His abscesses healed, and there weren’t any more. He cried, and he breathed, and he let his lies fall. I need help. Please. I don’t want to use any more.

The man that left the hospital some days later was a man I’d never met before. His face was clearer, his eyes were honest, his breaths were stronger. He left with uncertainty, fear, follow-ups, and …hope.

What can kill, can save.

What can frustrate, can inspire.

All of us are capable of change. And it is the judgment passed from one that might limit the potential of another to do so.

At first, do no harm. Body, mind, or spirit.