Sharing of giving and receiving health care

The Lightest Blue Eyes

Seventeen years ago, I was a senior psychiatry resident, moonlighting on weekends in the psych unit at a small rural hospital. Usually the unit was quiet. In this remote corner of northern Canada, we were taught to value resources and avoid “unnecessary” psychiatry admissions.

Arriving one rainy Friday, I headed to the ER to let them know I was there. Among the mostly frail, elderly patients, one person stood out: a healthy-looking woman in her early thirties, about my age.

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Meatballs and Hot Pink Scrubs

As a third-year medical student, I did a month-long psychiatry rotation in a large urban psychiatric hospital. I’ll never forget my first patients there: Christian Mitchell and Sabrina Smith.

Christian, only in his thirties, looked about sixty. He had the coarse, bushy beard of a mountain recluse, and his hair was similarly overgrown, with bits of unidentifiable debris tangled within.

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Found Down

I keep having this dream where I’m trying to call 911, and I can’t. I can’t seem to get the phone to work. I become panicked, and I can’t breathe. My heartbeat pounds in my ears, and I feel the sharp taste of bile in my throat.

When I wake up, that shaky feeling of fear and impotence clings to me. I don’t ever remember what was wrong in the dream–why I needed to call 911. I just remember not being able to.

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More Voices

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

healing
Healing

February 2021

January 2021
The Vaccine

January 2021

Endings and Beginnings
Endings and Beginnings

December 2020

Fourteen Months

from your ship in Vietnam.
Love letters.
Six pages in one of them
on the thin Navy stationary,
listing the ways you loved me.

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This Is How You Cope With Cancer

Bleach your hair,

get drunk on champagne,

pretend the left and right halves of your face are the exact same,

ignore and deny it, laugh loudly–too loudly,

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encounters 20sept geneva

Encounters: “I have been so blessed…”

I had my first baby when I was thirteen, and my mother died when I was thirteen. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but when my faith is not consistent, that’s when I start getting all those crazy thoughts, like “Oh, my life, my life…”

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Felipe's Story

Felipe’s Story: “I’m going to the U.S. I’m going to see who detained the clouds and how they detained them.”

“There was a time [in Mexico] that it didn’t rain and there wasn’t a lot to eat in the country. There were no crops. People started to say that the Americans stopped the clouds so it wouldn’t rain, because they are very powerful. I said, I’m going to meet these Americans — I’m going to go to the U.S. I’m going to see who detained the clouds and how they detained them. I was about 15.”

“[Hubo] un tiempo que no llovía y no había mucho que comer en el campo. No hubo cosechas. Empezaron a contar los señores que los Americanos detuvieron las nubes para que no lloviera porque son muy poderosos. Dije, voy a conocer los Estados Unidos. Voy a ver quienes son los que detienen las nubes, como las detienen. Tenía como 15 años.”

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Fatima's Story

Fatima’s Story: “I want them to be better than me. I’m here, stuck.”

“I tell [my children], you don’t have to do anything for me, just go to school and do what you have to do. On the weekend I take them to the mosque, because jeu can learn Arabic and all that. And I just want them to study. That’s all. That’s the main thing. If you want to be someone tomorrow, you have to work hard right now.

I want them to be better than me. I’m here, stuck. I cannot do the work that I want to do because I don’t have the degree for it,

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