The Catch

I met a heart transplant patient in the spring of 2022 while practicing my interviewing skills on the wards. Her charm, humor, and grit made the experience beyond heartwarming. As she recounted the story of her medical journey, she shared pieces of her life that made me smile, like her offhand comments about her love for fishing, and others that nearly made me cry, like the words she shared about her unbreakable bond with her soulmate and partner.

It occurred to me later on, as I reviewed my notes and memories of our encounter, that elements of her healthcare journey could be represented by her beloved pastime of fishing. Before her hospitalization at Duke, she experienced severe pulmonary edema, her lungs filling, drowning with excess water. In the hospital, she waited day by day as she stabilized with medications and rest, and anticipated receiving a new heart. Most of the time it was tranquil, though tedious. But every so often she still experienced the ebbs and flows of her condition, as her heart and breathing worsened and improved in turn.

The dichotomy of water, its peace and its fickle turbulence, the experience of fishing, its patience and its steady perseverance… all of these characteristics were reflected in her journey. But most of all, the presence of her partner, a steadfast beacon of love and strength, and the immense hope that shone through their story, imprinted themselves like gold in my memory. I can only hope to have showcased some of its brilliance in this piece I have painted.

About the Artist: Lucy Zheng

I am a second year medical student at Duke, and I’ve always enjoyed dabbling in many artistic mediums, from sketching, to Chinese watercolor painting, to singing and acting, to graphic design and digital art. The freedom I’ve had to explore these ventures often felt like something I had to give up the older I grew, a sentiment that often felt truer as I gravitated towards medicine. But I’m learning that both medicine as a field, and my own will to create, are not so easily constrained. In the future, I hope to continue exploring where medicine and my passion for the arts intersect, for myself and my patients, as I develop into the doctor and the person I hope to become. In the process, I hope art will continue to be a lens for me to reflect on my journey through medicine, providing space for me to reach into my own nooks and crannies and find anchors to guide myself and those I care for.