fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

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Sharing personal experiences of giving and receiving health care

Lessons From My Teachers

In July 2003, a few days after I had started service as inpatient attending pediatric cardiologist at Lutheran General Children’s Hospital, the neonatologists, nurses and I met with Jenni and Tony to discuss their daughter Grace’s health status.

Grace, now two and a half weeks old, had seemed normal at birth. After a few hours, her skin color had turned blue: Her oxygen level was dangerously low. She’d been whisked off to the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), where tests showed that her heart function was poor due to high blood pressure in her lungs. Her heart and lungs began to fail, so we’d placed her on a heart-lung machine (ECMO) for sixteen days. Now taken off the machine, she was breathing with the help of a ventilator.

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“How Long Have You Had These Symptoms, Doctor?”

“How long have you had these symptoms?”

Dr. Quantrell’s tone was kind and inquisitive, but with the CT scan on the computer between us displaying a two-centimeter kidney stone, I couldn’t help hearing: How long have you been ignoring this problem?

Much has been written about the experience of doctor as patient. Like many of my colleagues before me, I’d fallen into the trap of trying to diagnose myself before calling my family physician.

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Nontraditional

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I have always been different. As a nurse I was a late bloomer, though I’d always felt passionately drawn to the profession.

I was born to nurse. This was evident even when I was a young child; I bathed my grandmother’s amputated leg while the other kids played in the yard. Although I had planned to go to nursing school after graduation, I took a seventeen-year detour and ultimately entered as a nontraditional student.

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More Voices

Every month readers tell their stories — in 40 to 400 words — on a different healthcare theme.

Scars
Photo Credit: Sara Kohrt
Scars

April 2024

The Biopsy
Photo Credit: Sara Kohrt
The Biopsy

March 2024

Cold
Photo Credit: Sara Kohrt
Cold

February 2024

New Voices

Stories by those whose faces and perspectives are underrepresented in media and in the health professions.

The Visible-Invisible Divide

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

Most days, people don’t see my disability. I don’t generally wear a brace or use a wheelchair or even crutches.

“I would never know that you’re in constant pain,” a kind professor once said. “When I see you, you’re always smiling.”

“You don’t look sick,” friends always tell me.

I’m twenty-three. I want to be like my peers, but for me, every day is a balancing act—literally.

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The Sounds of Inclusion

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

The whir of a drill. Loud smacks from a hammer. Tools scrape and scratch the floor as they’re shuffled across it.

To you, these may seem like the sounds of nondescript carpentry work; maybe a remodel happening in a neighboring apartment. But as I sit at my desk in my medical school’s laboratory, listening to that carpentry symphony two lab benches away, I hear the sounds of inclusion.

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Being Different: My Struggle and My Motivation

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by my peers into believing that being different was bad.

I grew up thinking that speaking my mind was undesirable if my thoughts didn’t mirror those of others. To my peers, liking the “strange” foods of my parents’ Haitian cuisine, such as tripe or oxtail, was weird. I wore my older brothers’ hand-me-downs, which led to incessant teasing at school.

Although I grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts—a mostly Black, Haitian and Cape Verdean town—much of this

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Poems

Enough

Her idea of a date is splitting
a six-pack with her husband
Friday nights while milking the cows,
still weary from her day job.
Swollen udders demand attention
twice daily regardless
of her daughter’s ball games,
her mother’s terminal cancer.

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The Bite

In the springtime, a zombie showed up,
breaking down our door and biting me.

Friends and neighbors asked questions,
not daring to come near,

leaving flowers, candles, baked goods
on our crooked stoop.

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Prognosis

Small birds teeter
on the wires by the feedstore.

Crows scatter broken seedpods
beneath the streetlight.

Flowering weeds crowd the dusty sidewalk,
sickly yellow or red as blood.

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