"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
"Matthew, go see this lady about her breast mass," says my attending physician at the clinic where, as a third-year medical student, I'm doing a family-medicine rotation.
Okay, I think. I've done my ob/gyn rotation; breast masses are no big deal.
I don my short white coat, freshly baked from sitting in the back of my car as I drove to work on this oppressively hot morning. As I sling the stethoscope around my neck, I feel my inner voice (my constant companion amid the stresses of medical school) gearing up, ready to offer insights, questions, distractions....
Day 1: For over thirty-five years my strong, spirited spouse, Carlo, served around the world in the Air Force. Now retired from the military, he still serves at the air base as a civilian security police officer.
His neck hurts. A lot. He blames the pain on the unbalanced weight of the bulletproof vest that Uncle Sam added last year to the uniform he proudly wears every day.
Even though Carlo is a military veteran, he does not use the VA program for health care.
On this day, Carlo calls his longtime doctor because the pain is preventing him from working, and his hands have started to shake.
The receptionist says that Doc has no openings for eight weeks. Instead, she schedules Carlo to see a physician's assistant in three weeks.
tucked into the chaos of the emergency department
is a single room with stirrups, a floor spackled with blood,
& a woman whose face betrays nothing.
the bodies of all those i have touched who have then
died pile before me like so many broken eggshells
so i stand against the wall to distance myself from her
& her cramping uterus, her dark red clots that fall
like sleet, her blank eyes that stare strictly at the ceiling
while we busy ourselves with machinery: the speculum,
a treasury of compelling stories and poems.
Includes The Resilient Heart , Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma and Confessions of a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Drug Addict. Foreword by Maureen Bisognano, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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