Sharing personal experiences of giving and receiving health care

My Alzheimer’s Story

My name is Lisa Burr. I am a family nurse practitioner, and have been for nearly three decades. I grew up in California, the “Sunshine State.”

In the 1960s, my dad, a military test pilot, was the first astronaut with NASA’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program, which pioneered crewed space stations as reconnaissance satellites. My mother was a beautiful model.

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The Birthday Party

Forty years ago, I experienced a miracle—the first of many in my nursing career. I was about six months into my first nursing job, in the neonatal ICU at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. It was there that I met baby Jonathon, and it was his mother who made me a true believer.

Jonathon had come to us with severe kidney disease. He looked sickly: His skin was very pale—translucent even. He acted like a healthy infant, though, and as he got older, he actually smiled at us. But despite the doctors’ best efforts, his kidneys were barely functioning.

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Role Reversal

The year 2020 was a lot of things for a lot of people. Chaotic, exhausting, heartbreaking, hopeful. It was a year in which my immense privilege—as a healthy, educated white woman—protected me from much of the pain born by others.

And while it was many of those things (especially chaotic) for me, it was also the year I started medical school. The year I moved from LA to Austin, driving across California, Utah and Texas in the process. The year I read fifty-four fiction books to escape the monotony of lockdown.

And it was the year my dad died.

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More Voices

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

Coming Undone

May 2023

Unsung Heroes

April 2023

Finding Balance

March 2023

New Voices

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

Another GSW

Flashback to a year ago: I’m a third-year medical student, three weeks into my very first clinical rotation—acute-care surgery at our county hospital.

It’s nearing dinner time, less than halfway through my twenty-eight-hour call shift, when my pager buzzes, alerting me to an incoming trauma. Looking down, I read three letters: “GSW.”

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My Pen Is Mightier

After 9/11, I waited for The Moment.

I was only six when the Twin Towers fell, but even then I understood that being Muslim in America was going to be difficult. I imagined that a teacher would burst into my elementary-school class, point at me and scream, “Get out of this country, you terrorist!” I feared that my friends would look at me, wide-eyed, and never speak to me again.

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Double Take

Sauntering into the dark hospital room, I was dazzled by my patient’s radiant smile. It spanned her face and crinkled her eyes; her crooked teeth peeked through her lips, making her seem approachable and kind.

“Hi, Ms. Radha, I’m a third-year medical student,” I said. “Is this an okay time to chat? I’m here on behalf of the psychiatry department.”

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Lake Michigan Sunset

Everything’s gone silent
as though a group of doctors has entered
the children’s ward.

Drone of water vehicles stowed,
a couple strolls the long edge of conversation.

Waves, like fear, have subsided—
only their small breaths remain.

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The Day After

you ran a knife across
your wrists, you called
to say you had finally
tried coffee.

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Cancer Update Number 12 via YouTube

He speaks of Kali maa, goddess of time
while chemo and radiation pin him to the clock.

As if confessing to a thievery of time,
when they neared one hundred years,

my parents said they never expected to live so long.
Their time unfolded like a painted fan.

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