"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
Pamela sits on the examining-room stool, looking at me expectantly.
I am in my first year of medical school. I do as I've been told to do in Medical Skills class: I observe my patient--without judgment or assumptions--and try to figure out what questions to ask, based on the information I am given.
Pamela has curly, strawberry-blonde hair and looks to be thirty, just a few years older than me. Her infant son lies in a carrier beside her.
Dr. Clark, whom I'm shadowing, has just given Pamela osteopathic manipulative therapy for her chronic headaches. Now the doctor is treating Pamela's older son, age seven, for back pain; he fell off the school jungle gym a few days ago.
All three patients--mother, son and infant--are wearing red: a red tank-top on the mom, a red t-shirt for the son and a red blanket for the baby.
A Different View
Most days, Mrs. Finch's perspective was outrageously optimistic and embarrassingly complimentary. Although she had the typical assortment of nonagenarian maladies, she would not let that define her; whenever she visited my office, it was hard to get to a chief complaint because of her relentless focus on how nicely the parking lot had been graveled, or "what a sweet, sweet nurse you have," or my partner's haircut or the "clever, clever little hooks" holding the geraniums at the entry.
Never mind the treasure trove of doubled superlatives she saved for me, her physician.
I was not with my mother when she died, her heart bursting
against her ribs, screaming for a violent release from her chest
I listened, ear to phone: nothing-more-could-be-done
I recall her now, prayer petals of morning’s first red rose, the perfect
Mezzo-soprano of a summer evening’s lullaby, an open window to song
Clinical colleagues reported massive myocardial infarction
I reported that I was an orphan
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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