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“Never Again!” by Gaayatri Sivanantham

In February of 2022, we released our first Open Call: How might we recreate public health as art, letters, stories, and poetry? The following is a poetry submission we received from this open call.

“My poems address the issue of medical negligence through the stories of the pain felt by the family and the person itself, but more so of how medical negligence has led to the death of a loved one and to the suffering of the family. I know a lot of relatives and friends who have lost loved ones due to medical negligence and it can be hard to convey into words the agony that particular loved on went through due to the doctors and nurses’ mistakes.”

Gaayatri Sivanantham

Never Again!

Beep. Beep… beep…

“Help me.”



Her ragged breathing 


Her struggling heartbeat


The world just


Her daughters wept, 

her sons-in-law grieved,

her grandchildren stood

huddled to the side, 

numb and broken. 

No tears cried could

compare to the river held

within. A dam waiting to 

burst. Waiting, churning. 

It flooded the meeting,

medical director silent, ‘

doctors unabashed,

nurses quiet. Just

silence. No words,

except the grieving daughters

asking for their mother back. 

“How is she?”

“She’s fine, she’s alright.”

Next hour, frantic calls, 

her conditioned worsened.

Denied entry due to the 

pandemic, reduce chances of 

infecting patients further. 

But they did not lose their mother

to Covid-19, but to human error. 

“How is she?”

“She’s alright, she’s improving.”

Next minute, cousin calls, 

she’s in severe pain, she’s pale. 

A successful emergency surgery

but brewing within her frail body

they failed to check, failed to see. 

“How is she?”

“She’s better now, she really is!”

Joy and exhilaration,

relief replacing the tension.

She’s coming home! 

Next second, nurse calls…

“You should call everyone.”

The world just stopped. 

Halted dead. 

Two teams, two differing

responses on her state,

Could they not see?

Her suffering, could they

have chosen ignorance instead?

Chosen to hide their mistakes? 

Mismanagement. Simply that.

No legal suits, no court,

they had to settle. 

The hurt daughter takes the pen,

Her weapon, her ally 

to fight against powerful foes. 

Her vow to her mother, 

her promise to her child, 

She pens her woes, 

And many others who suffered 

Similar losses, throes 

Of death and grief. 

“Never again… never again!”

For another death to be in vain, 

For another family to be in pain,

For another powerful faculty to 

walk away free under a sky blue.

They should be mindful. 

All lives are meaningful.

Old, disabled, young, stranger,

All lives do matter. 

White whale

Enclosed within white walls,

sanitized suffocating sobs

from far off. Icy fingers 

slip from warm-blooded ones,

not thawed, too gone. 

He who beached on sharded

sands, wounded.

His rumbling calls

reverberates from grain to stone,

resounding from metal to bone,

clean and fresh.

Pricks on his flesh

could no balm relieve.

In ocean blue, his family

await his return, pacing 

the currents path, tails

restless and hearts racing.

They can’t touch the beach,

its white pristine floor,

a barrier for the outside.

They await in vain. 

His ailment no cure,

but lies trickle in IV drops

with metal bars 

and bleached bone. 

Slippery hands let go the

warm body of his,

and his soul slipped from him. 

Within the white walls,

splattered splotches of sobs

and dried blood,

the white whale slips 

into ocean milk.

Cool, and long gone. 

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