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Poems with Sonograms




Word and image from a medical perspective



Pregnant Woman with Fainting Spell



syncope
Echocardiograms are commonly performed when patients collapse (have syncope). Cardiac causes of syncope include irregular heart beats induced by a weak heart muscle, a large amount of fluid around the heart or severe leaks or blockages of heart valves. Many times no heart abnormality is found. This is a normal echo. Blood flows from the inferior vena cava (IVC) into the right atrium (RA).

Three months in,
six months to go,
so time to get
a belly sonogram
to check the baby out.
When told about not one
but three or maybe even four
she passed out on the floor

and so they ordered
pictures of her heart.

Nothing wrong.
Open atrium
to whatever will come in.
She'll learn to cope,
no time for syncope.








Star quarterback with heart murmur



star quarterback
The velocity of the blood traveling across the outflow track of the heart (LVOT), the area just before the aortic valve, is very high. This is patient has a heart muscle problem due to a thickened portion of the wall between the two ventricles. He could die suddenly from a fatal heart rhythm, especially during vigorous exercise.

The doc ran through the backs
and ends and monsters on the line
without a hitch.
The boy he made
to stand,
then squat,
then lie again,
cold disk of stethoscope
pressed against his chest
to listen, listen
to the whishing sound

and now the boy
is terrified
not about his heart
as he should be
but that he'll never
throw a pass again.





Correct position after sex

correct position
Babies born with a hole between the two main pumping chambers (ventricular septal defect) are blue at birth because blood pumped from the left ventricle (LV) is diluted with blood low in oxygen from the right ventricle (RV). This echocardiogram shows the patch sewn into the wall (septum, IVS) between the two ventricles to close the hole.

Little boy blue
shirt, blanket, skin
when he was born.

Half his blood
coursed through the hole
that did not close
six months after
egg and sperm
first met.

I scan his echo,
see shadow of the fix
sewn in by doctor-seamstress.
Stitches sure, sturdy cloth,
no leak for twenty years.

Would he have needed
knife and needle
had mom not turned in bed
that blissful night,
beneath the patchwork quilt,
instead of staying prone?



About the Author

Joseph Gascho

Joseph Gascho is a cardiologist at Penn State Hershey College of Medicine, where he is a professor of humanities and medicine. He grew up in Nebraska and moved with his family to Harrisonburg, VA, when he was thirteen years old. In addition to his poetry related to his Nebraska roots, much of his poetry is related to his clinical duties: seeing patients and reading cardiac sonograms. He is a photographer as well as a poet, and is interested in the connection between image and word. He has published poems in medical journals, as well as image poems (poems about his patients or about sonographic studies he reads, accompanied by patient portraits or sonographic images). His photography and his poetry/image work have been displayed as one person exhibitions.