I needed comfort food after a day like today – something with carbs, cheese, and olive oil. Like this Chicken Parmesan / Parmigiana (from Allrecipes).
During my ER shift, the intercom called out an incoming level 1 patient with cardiac arrest. I headed over to the critical care “shock room” and saw a chaotic flurry of people. It’s always incredible to watch everyone is running around yet doing what they need to do like a well oiled machine.
Medical student! someone told me. Do you want to do CPR?
Yes! I said, hoping to be useful. I ran in to relieve the previous person and immediately began chest compressions.
The woman was old, frail, and clearly very very sick. I was so short I needed to stand on a stool, and I was pushing on her skinny chest with all my might. I don’t even know how much time passed when, suddenly, they called it off – she was declared deceased at 4:53 pm. Most people filed out, as there were other patients to be tended to.
What do we do with these? I asked, pointing to her gold watch and dentures. We save it for the family, the nurses said. She had longtime stage 4 GI cancer, hence the massive bleed. Lots of cancer patients lose all their weight because eating is just a terrible experience. No delicious parmesan flavor, no cherry tomatoes bursting with freshness, no juicy chicken breaded with Panko to enjoy – “food” is fed in a tube.
I had never spoken to her or truly met her. She had limited chances of survival before I even touched her, and I didn’t know what to feel. After all, compassion is sadness over the loss of any human, even strangers, right? A friend responded, why should the default emotion be sadness and guilt?
It’s certainly an interesting thought – instead of sadness with her passing on, perhaps I should feel joy she’s in a better place now. I hope she’s at peace, and perhaps somewhere else, she can enjoy eating things like chicken parmegiana and pasta again.
Easy Chicken Parmesan Pasta
1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs
crushed red pepper, Italian spices, crushed garlic, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup spaghetti, cooked according to directions on package
1 cup marinara pasta sauce
parsley, to garnish
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line baking tray with foil.
In a separate dish, combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and spices. Dip the chicken breasts in the olive oil, then into the bread crumb mixture. Place on baking tray and bake in the oven for 30 min, until no longer pink and juices run clear.
Prepare pasta and add sauce and baked chicken. Add cheese and parsley and serve.