American Association for Clinical Chemistry
Better health through laboratory medicine
Patient Safety Focus: I knew her just enough


I knew her just enough
A poem by Thomas Cantolini, Medical Technologist

Dear Patient Safety Focus Editors,

I was wondering if your publication would be interested in including a poem some time? Anyone who has worked in a clinical lab for very long has probably experienced the feelings that I wrote about in this poem.

Unlike smaller hospital labs, the techs here almost never interact with patients; the phlebotomy staff does. On extremely hectic days, not surprisingly, our relationship with the nursing staff can be strained.

The poem speaks to the human side of being in the healthcare profession and reminds us of the reason we, techs and nurses, are in our respective fields. And yes, sometimes it hurts.


Thomas Cantolini
Medical Technologist
NorDx Laboratory
Maine Medical Center
Scarborough, Maine

I knew her just enough
By Thomas Contolini

  late December — gray —
cold rainy windows:
lab computer data /
  rows of numbers —
to measure a child’s life
this way / to watch her

an increment at a time:

calling — critical — results —
nine; I think,
     her age; I forget.

hard to hear the nurse’s voice
above the analyzer’s drone —
I recall the little girl’s name on
other tubes / other days / too
     many days /

to be here now and know
how she spent
fighting the unwinnable fight:
yet I never got to hold her /
never looked into her eyes;

but I knew her —
I knew her just enough to hurt
when the voice said she


Patient Safety Focus Editorial Board

Michael Astion, MD, PhD
Department of Laboratory Medicine
University of Washington, Seattle

Peggy A. Ahlin, BS, MT(ASCP)
ARUP Laboratories
Salt Lake City, Utah 
James S. Hernandez, MD, MS 
  Mayo Clinic Arizona
Scottsdale and Phoenix

Devery Howerton, PhD

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, Ga.

Sponsored by ARUP Laboratories, Inc.