The Catheter

Posted by Michael F. Weisberg on 7 October 2015

We recently helped my father celebrate his 90th birthday in good health and surrounded by family and friends.  Three years ago I wrote the following poem reflecting on when my father was ill and hospitalized.  Savor the time you have with your parents.


The Catheter

Darkness enveloped the room except for the lighted numbers on the IV
Suddenly, a direct bright light lit up your face like an actor on stage and
The nurse emerged from behind the curtain and into the light
Dangling the foley catheter like a hose with her right hand.

I held your head in my hands
Firm unseen tufts of hair pressing against my trembling fingers
Your whole body arched forward like a catapult
As the pain from the catheter insertion began.

You had been chanting “Momma, Momma” like a prayer in
synagogue all night as you writhed in pain
Then “Michael, Michael,” in unstoppable rhythm
Your cadence matching the agonizing drip of urine from your penis.

Now you screamed “Michael!” to the entire ward
As I quivered in fear as the act was being performed.
I kissed your forehead grizzled by eighty-seven years
And tried to calm you with words I couldn’t utter.

You should never be treated like this
Yet the perpetual drip of urine all night
And your constant threatening to get out of bed to go pee with your newly fixed broken hip
Made it the only solution.

Your face now creased by agony-I couldn’t recognize your familiar features
“Michael!” you screamed again and again
My ears wouldn’t work; I turned them off
I focused on eighty-seven years of my father now racked by unthinkable pain.

Yellow liquid finally appeared in the tube
The drill had entered the well of urine
And the tube and the bag which had been sitting limply on the bed
Quickly filled with yellow gold.

Your body fell back onto the bed
As though you had been shot
Immediately you snored in peaceful sleep
As I removed my hands from cradling your head. 


Dr. Michael F. Weisberg

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Dr. Michael Weisberg has practiced gastroenterology in Plano, Texas for 24 years.

He has been named D Magazine’s list of best doctors eight times and has been recognized as Super-Doctor by Texas Monthly multiple times.

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The Hospitalist is provocative, revealing, and riveting… Weisberg has exposed how the patient-doctor relationship has changed in the modern age.”

- Doug Ross, author of Hard-Boiled