Sharing of giving and receiving health care
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.
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.
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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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.”
“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,