Unmasked: Voices from Healthcare

This is a new section featuring the various voices in healthcare: from nurses to social workers to chaplains to respiratory therapists and other medical professionals who care for us. 

Suzanne Tay-Kelley, NP, is one of many Stanford Neurosurgery Advanced Practice Providers (APPs) supporting Covid surge coverage.

February 10, 2021


By Suzanne Tay-Kelley, NP

sliders, cappuccino, dang even pot, why not?
a fresh stash apropos a dire year
an exit comfortably numb
swing on by for a Brain Tickle in your car
and coming soon, vaccines!

welcome to our drive-through testing lanes
swiftest swabbers in the West
need an oropharynx sample? deft swish in ‘n out
nasopharyngeal? drop a dart
nose-to-ear & you’re all set

traveler nurses wielding specimen vials
retirees recalled to cope with The Surge
bio-suited, trailing respirators, double-masked
scrappy crew of extra shifters
poised kitted out – at your service

no worries granny is manic; gimme 3 minutes, tops!
just cut your engine sir
& grab her wrists please
mid-turbinate swirl-twirl, see? done in a blink
and she only swatted me once

teen abruptly sorry post-Christmas revelry; glistening eyes
a fear-laced maelstrom of chagrined bravado
gaunt chemo patient, wig askew, proffers sweets and thanks
frenetic pace gentles in swath of grace
stay safe ma’am; best luck finding those fireworks

Rabbi Chaya Gusfield, Spiritual Director, Board Certified Chaplain, and Teacher, was ordained as a rabbi in 2006 through the Aleph Rabbinic Program. She currently serves as a Palliative Care chaplain at Kaiser Richmond and Oakland. Rabbi Gusfield works closely with Buddhist teacher Eve Decker offering healing services and workshops. You can find Rabbi Gusfield’s writings on her blog at chayasgarden.wordpress.com. 

May 27, 2020

In response to the writing prompt, “What do you do?”

By Chaya Gusfield 

I am a spiritual midwife: I listen to your words and your body. I ask God to bring me images, sounds, smells and memories of what you are experiencing beyond your spoken words.

I listen even more deeply for the responses that would be most helpful, most healing in the moment. I trust my intuition and the messages I hear. I honor what comes to me and consider it carefully. It might be a deep sacred silence, a touch, looking away, inviting prayer, breathing with, singing a song, offering a blessing, inquiring for more, writing your experience as I hear it as your poem/prayer, listening for or inviting an image from the mundane to the divine, or asking for more information…There is no formula.

I am a spiritual midwife. We co-create rituals that help you deepen and honor the turning moments in your life. We explore together where you are turning towards that which opens you to something new, or away from something that you no longer need. Whether it be a child, animal, house, body, moment, or whether it be a separation, a death, a transformation. We honor, celebrate, grieve, deepen. 

I am a spiritual midwife, I help you remember your own wisdom, traditions, music. I help you remember your own poetry, your own words, your own hope. Your breath. I help you remember when remembering feels impossible.

I am a spiritual midwife. We do this all in the name of Healing. Thank you for allowing me to join you during this precious time.

Suzanne Tay-Kelley is a nurse practitioner with Stanford Medicine’s Department of Neurosurgery, working especially with oncology patients. Her passion is Palliative Care.

May 20, 2020

In response to the writing prompt, write a prescription for this time.

By Suzanne Tay-Kelley

Prescription: Treat yourself to a quiet 10 minutes, when you can tear yourself from your laptop or clinic or quivering patient. Hold your heart in your hand and caress it. When your boiling mind is finally still, blow a kiss to salve the hurt around you. Warning: this bit might take a while. Repeat every couple hours while awake. Refills PRN but recommend ad infinitum.

Cheryl Ann Passanisi, native Californian, grew up in Monterey, went to school at California State University, Long Beach, and University of California, San Francisco where she earned a master’s degree in Nursing. She lives on the San Francisco peninsula and works at a Stanford hospital as a nurse practitioner. She is active in local community theatre and opera chorus. This poem is featured in her book, Geraniums from the Little Sophias of Unruly Wisdom www.finishinglinepress.com

May 6, 2020

This body broken for you
(reports from the ICU)
By Cheryl Passanisi

We who have the power to hurt
stand poised
with needle, tourniquet.

This one turns into a crane
folded origami arms bent into her side,
face hidden under gauze,
her wings cover the holy.

Out of another's mouth protrudes
feathers and tubes as if he swallowed a hook and lure,
tagged catch.
This one mutates, loses a liver or toe.
This one we keep bringing back to life,
bringing back to life.
Another lives just short of poisoning.

They are not afraid
even as I, with pilot goggles and gloves,
navigate an opened vein.


Healthcare professionals interested in submitting a story for consideration for Unmasked: Voices from Healthcare can send their story to jmgeno@stanford.edu

Stanford’s Unmasked: Voices from Healthcare is committed to protecting a patient's right to privacy and identities have been protected by altering identifying characteristics.