Vital Signs I


Written by  Katherine Ottaway MD


In the hospital, past, 

I am told we have a new Vital Sign

Like blood pressure and pulse

We are to measure pain 

And always treat it


Sometimes I wonder 


Mr. X is in the ICU

I tell his family 

He may die

On a scale of one to ten 

What is his wife’s pain? 

His daughter’s 

We are not treating them 

Only Mr. X


We try to suppress pain 

Signals from our nerves 

Physical pain is easier


I think of our great forests 

We suppressed fire


And that was wrong 

If fire is suppressed 

Undergrowth builds up 

Fuel levels rise

Fire comes 

Rages out of control 

All is destroyed


If fires burn 

More naturally 

More regularly 

What is left?


At first it looks desolate 

The tall trees are burnt 

Around their bases 

But they live 

Adapted to the fire 

Majestic pines 


Would our values were as clear


Some pines 



Will only germinate in fire 

When the undergrowth is cleared 

Conditions are right for new growth


Perhaps pain is our fire 

Grief is our fire


If we block pain 

Where does it go? 

Does the fuel build?


I wonder if the tall pines fear fire

Would they avoid it if they could?


Perhaps suppression

Is not the answer


Perhaps we can change 

Remain present 

Acknowledge pain 

As normal 

As joy


Perhaps if I step into the fire 

I can remain present 

For you


And you will be 

Less alone

Less afraid


I open my doors


Let the fire burn


Text ©  Katherine Ottaway MD



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2 Responses to “Vital Signs I”

  1. Carolyn Crossley VixenOfVerse

    I can really resonate with this. My doctors treated my chronic pain with oxycodone for 14 years increasing the dosage until I was on 120 my a day! Then they told me to come off it as I was addicted. It took me 4 months to wean myself off it. I felt so much better without it. Now I take responsibility for my health. I still listen to my doctors but I keep myself informed so I can make an informed decision about what I take and what other therapies are open to me. ❌❤❌

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