Sharing personal experiences of giving and receiving health care

Love, Marriage and Parkinson’s

In 2015, while walking with my wife, Jody, in our neighborhood, I suddenly found myself bent over and taking tiny, rapid, repetitive steps. I knew I was moving too fast, but could not stop myself. Jody thought I was kidding—until the moment I fell down on a neighbor’s lawn.

A passing driver slowed down to ask if I was okay. I was all right, but thought the experience odd.

I’d never heard the word “festination” (a walking gait characterized by involuntary acceleration) until I saw a neurologist friend a week later.

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Doing the Math

“I can’t do it—I’ll die!”

Veronica is in tears.

I’m a family physician, working in a pain-management clinic in the Bronx. As Veronica’s doctor, I’ve asked her to see me to discuss coming off her opioid medications. It’s part of a clinic-wide initiative to reassess using these medications long-term with patients who have chronic pain.

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What Do You Want Your Life to Look Like?

In the first months of medical school, we’re taught that patient autonomy should be one of a physician’s guiding tenets. The doctor provides diagnoses, prognoses and treatment plans, but ultimately it’s up to patients to make decisions about their own care.

As a family doctor, I often tell patients: “Only you can know what the right decision is for you. I’m here to provide information and recommendations and then to support your decision.”

But over the past year, as my father’s memory deteriorated and his life drew to a close, I learned about the ways in which our medical system limits patient autonomy.

During his last months, my father said repeatedly, “My brain is in chaos.”

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More Voices

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

Abortion: Then and Now

July 2022

Gun Violence

June 2022

Sexism

May 2022

New Voices

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

Unmasking the Problem

In the spring of 2021, as a third-year medical student in the midst of the pandemic, I worked on a research thesis while continuing to build my clinical skills. Every other week, I would visit the endocrinology clinic and see patients with my research mentor.

It was a day like any other at the clinic. Wearing the usual blue surgical face mask, I knocked on the exam-room door, and asked permission to enter. After sanitizing my hands, I began my introductory spiel while heading to the computer. Sitting down, I glanced at my patient, Jim—a man in his fifties, sitting across from me.

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Colored Darkness

“You know how empowering it was for me to walk out into the ocean without my shirt on?” asked my twenty-four-year-old cousin Neil after we’d returned from a day of swimming and sunning at the beach.

For me, it had been a rare and welcome break from my coursework in medical school, where I had just started my fourth year.

It was the first time I had worn a bikini in public after years of veiling myself in shirts and wetsuits.

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Dignity in Childbirth

My interest in women’s health began when, in high school, I became aware of the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Learning about that conflict’s impact on women in terms of sexual trauma and maternal mortality opened my eyes to the depths of inequality that women face in the Global South. This, combined with the fact that I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American, led me to pursue a career in obstetrics and gynecology, with a global-health focus.

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Poems

Toxemia of Pregnancy

There was the bed bent in half,
the needle in the wrist,

the crack of bathroom light under the door.
Your father tried to sleep in the hospital cot

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Healing

When I thought I might die,
not eventually, but very
soon, I treated me more kindly,

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Good Enough

Three weeks after my mastectomy, I traveled south.
I slung my carry-on bag crosswise over my body
and jostled my way through the airport, the bag
in front of me, to form a barrier, protecting my incision.
I let my arm rest on the bag,
to take the tension off the shoulder.

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