Charity Hospital, New Orleans

I, along with thousands of students and young physicians, received a formative part of my medical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans. Ever since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, this venerable institution of both teaching and patient care has remained closed, and may remain so indefinitely. The following poem has special poignancy to me, as well as to anyone who has walked through those stone portals.
1735 – 2005
Generations climbed her stone steps,
disappeared for years inside her gray walls,
learned to live thirty-six hour days
and then to sleep without dreams.
We passed through admit rooms,
studied gunshot wounds and abdominal pain,
absorbed impermanence and accepted death.
We walked the deep night wards,
silent save for an occasional moan,
listened for the absence of breath.
We emerged changed –
not more compassionate perhaps,
but calmer, sadder, more resigned.
From those years much was lost,
lives and stories forever gone.
Our hands remember though
how to wield a knife,
separate good tissue from bad,
preserve vessel and nerve
and something more –
how to touch a dying patient
whisper a wordless benediction
and receive a blessing in return.
Wayne F. Larrabee, Jr, MD
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16 Responses to Charity Hospital, New Orleans

  1. Aafrica says:

    it is very sad. the Hospital used to host GCRC, which is pretty much homeless by now. we don\’t even have a regular meeting place. before Katrina, there was a plan of completely rebuilding Charity. i\’m not sure where that plan is at anymore 😦

  2. Cheryl says:

    That was a great poem and I have worked with indigent prostitutes, drug dealers, the mentally ill and drug addicts for many years now.  It leaves one with the same outcome…calmer, sadder and more resigned….

  3. Joe says:

    I agree with much of what the other comments.  I\’ve been to N.O. twice, and there  is no city like it in this county (or the world perhaps).  New Orleans will arise from it\’s ashes like the Phoenix.  The spirit is too strong there.  I talked with a friend that was born & raised there.  Out of 72 relatives, none died, but most lost their homes.  There will always be a New Orleans…the spirit will not die.
    Best Regards,

  4. PJ says:

    Good Afternoon Jorge,
    Thank you for stopping by. This poem is absolutely beautiful. I am not a physician , however, I carry the capabilities of deeply caring for all human beings. And having to research Bi-Polarism and also Alcoholism, as well as numerous other medical conditions, I sometimes feel as though I am . LOL. I now understand the behavior of that disease that has "crippled" so many. My Sister has been manic depressive for most of her life. Of course, at the time she was diagnosed was many, many years after the fact. However, with proper medication, she has her moments of "normalcy". I have two sisters ( half sisters, if we use "politically correct" terminology). Same Mother, different Father. So, perhaps I was blessed with different "genes".
    Have a MOST wonderful weekend.
    Until next time..keep Smiling.

  5. Pamela says:

    Beatiful Poem, Jorge.
    Thanks for stopping by…

  6. Gelert says:

    Thanks for that Jorge. So many old buildings are full of stories, its good someone loves them and records what they have meant.

  7. Pamela says:

    Thank you and have a superior weekend yourself…

  8. the1stephzen says:

    Love the daffodil pictures.  Here in Alabama we call them buttercups. It\’s good to be out and around visiting again.  Mother is out of the hospital and at my brother\’s.  None of the tests showed anything signficant enough for surgery.  My guess is she overdid yardwork, etc. and just didn\’t tell us.

  9. Gayle says:

    When things or people pass from us the transitions can be so difficult; they bear witness to our existence and remind us that if they must go, so must we.
    New Orleans since Katrina…

  10. K says:

    Poignant indeed… such destruction and devastation will be felt for many years to come… and for some, our entire life time.
    What will live on forever is the legacy such places and people leave… an impact on the world.  Thank you for sharing it Jorge.

  11. Betty says:

    Hi Jorge,
    Thank you for the tribute to Charity.  So many  of our friends and classmates. med students at both Tulane and LSU, interned at Charity or did their nurses\’ training there.   My memories go back even further.  My greatuncle, my grandfather\’s brother, was a patient at Dibert Turberculosis Hospital.  It was the ONLY TB hospital in New Orleans at the time and I went with my grandfather to visit Uncle Earl on Sundays.  Because children were not allowed in hospitals then, I had to wait in the building in front of Charity, "the waiting building" and I can still see those long wooden slat benches.
    Charity probably needed to be rebuilt if it had not been destroyed,, but what a lose that Art Deco facade will be.  New Orleans simply doesn\’t have the money to rebuild, but where will the poor folks go for medical care?
    It seems when it comes to New Orleans, my heart is broken on a daily basis!

  12. Jill says:

    Dear Jorge,
    As I read the poem I was imagining you as an intern. I am nostalgic about many things and places I\’ve been and lived through. I have also suffered abrupt losses that have deeply affected my life so I can identify with the emotions evoked by the memories of when Charity Hospital was alive and kicking…and then suddenly wiped out (hopefully for the moment).
    In terms of the medical field I feel there is much to discuss. I personally am a practitioner and propagator of preventive medicine. I rarely am sick and have an aversion to going to a doctor, mainly because of personal experience. My brother is a gynechologist with whom unfortunately I could never get along. My main gripe with most doctors is that they divorce the psychological aspect of illness from the picture. I grasp from your writing that you probably are not that kind of doctor. I am convinced that all illness is 100% psychological…including injuries, insect and snake bites, problems when giving birth, etc. etc. Also I am opposed to operating on people unless it is the only option left. I know of so much that can be done to better an ailment that is never even considered by doctors, either for monetary reasons or just stuburness. Of course, each doctor has his method of treating patients and I\’m just expressing a personal opinion from what I see around me.
    I do partake of alternative medicine and everything that is considered natural medicine. I try to avoid at all cost taking any medicines or drugs whatsoever. Herb tea or going on a fruit juice diet to cleanse the system is more my style.
    How would you describe your style of practicing medicine?

  13. Deborah says:

    New Orleans was always a dream.  I nearly went to Mardi Gras one year, but for a final in Cultural Anthropology that just wouldn\’t permit me.  I have regretted the decision, as it meant the difference between the A+ I got or the B I would have.  Now I will regret that decision forever.  Who knows, if I get traveling and working my way along, Las Vegas is waiting for me at the bloggers convention in September, and after that the decision would be, head for New Orleans for the winter, or back to gloomy Seattle.  I have turned my back on Seattle at the best time of year.  Too many regrets, Jorge, and truly I have none.  Life is messy sometimes, but every moment we have on Earth is priceless.
    Blessed be,

  14. Christopher says:

    Hello Jorge!
    Man, what a wonderful verse!! It was so well written that one could actually vision the carnage the people had to endure and witness. The world is continuously reaping what it sows, but life goes on and history always repeats itself unhindered.
    Lovely and very poignant indeed.
    Take care,

  15. linda says:

    Oh darling Jorge this is such a news worthy subject and I do so want to share it with more peoples… I hope you do not mind my boldness but in my heart I know you…
    deep down and you are a sharer.
    So, off I go like the breeze of sea that is just outside my door and I am going to flyingmonkeys to post your wonderful memorial.  Everyone should be aware of the damage caused… you know after a disaster people just seem to go on with their everyday lifes…
    I know, I was in the 1989 Earthquake and lost my house and job and all my worldly things. What I found was how shocking within two weeks the world had forgotten about our disaster and went back to the merry ways.
    As, it should be, do not waste a single minute of living….         Always your friend and much love from Linda

  16. Stephen Craig says:

    Hi Jorge it\’s me Linda and I am taking a piece of your heart to share with others…….thanks again darlin\’

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