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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November 2010

Tea and Daisies

Amy Cooper Rodriguez

It’s been almost ten years since Esther died, and I still think of her almost every day. I was her physical therapist at a rehabilitation hospital. My patients had many different diagnoses–head injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, hip or knee replacements. I was in my early twenties. I thought that if I tried hard enough, I could help everyone. And often, I could.

* * * * *

“What are you going to do to me?” Esther asked, looking up from her hospital chair.

I laughed and pulled up a chair. “I’m Amy, your physical therapist. I’m not going to do anything to you. I’m here to help you get back to doing things you miss.” 

Esther smoothed her long skirt over her plump legs, then pushed her glasses up on her nose. “I just want to go home and be able to do things for myself.”

“All right. We’ll work together to get you stronger and back home,” I said confidently. 

Nobody could tell why Esther felt weak. Doctors said maybe it was old age (she was eighty), arthritis or a vitamin deficiency. She had to use her hands to lift her legs in and out » Continue Reading.

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Semi-Private Room

Jan Jahner

Sometimes nectar appears
when stories intersect:

I walk into the room 
rearrange the bed-table
and push the pole with its bulging bladder sideways 
for a closer look. 

Her thinness triples the size of the bed
but her father, with his anxious chatter
feels strangely like my own
and her resolve, that tense control
has a familiar edge.

It feels like all the calories she’s ever counted 
and all the sweet things resisted for the last eleven years 
have aligned as a taut shield
protecting that juicy place that hasn’t ripened,
urged too early to carry her family through chaos: 
after all, her mother was dying of cancer
after all, mine couldn’t manage mental illness
after all, aren’t fathers helpless in these things?

The electrolyte imbalance that nearly took her life 
and the nurturance imbalance that emptied
her adolescent pockets of all the in-free tickets,
lie tangled with the feeding tube she never wanted 
while she talks and I listen, my beeper ignored.

Our connection becomes a spoon
with its delicate curve
Starting the good-byes, I hand her my card
she reads through the menu
departing, I feel the full moon
rising in my chest.

About the poet:


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Girl Talk

Warren Holleman

“I got pregnant. Quit sports, quit school. Quit all my dreams.”

Brenda looks fit and handsome, despite the scar running down the middle of her face. At six feet tall, she commands respect, even though her sweet, high-pitched voice belies her imposing physique.

We are sitting in a circle: Brenda, six other women and me. Most are in their thirties and forties, and in their fourth or fifth month of sobriety. They look professional in the suits they’ve assembled from the donations closet of our inner-city recovery center.

No one is surprised when Brenda says that, twenty years ago, she trained for the U.S. Olympic volleyball team.

“Did you ever compete again?” someone asks.


“Why not?”

Brenda shakes her head. The group gives her a moment to think about it, to grieve the loss.

“Later, I took up tennis. I was pretty good! Won lots of tournaments. You know, local stuff.”

Brenda pauses, then continues. “The people I played with, they were doctors, lawyers, people like that. Which was kinda cool. But this was the Eighties, and everybody was using powder cocaine. You know what I mean?”

The older ladies do know what she means. They nod

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Eileen M.K. Bobek

The year after I finished my emergency medicine residency, I had all four of my wisdom teeth pulled. 

Afterwards, I looked as if I had taken several punches to my face. My jaw was swollen, my skin a cornucopia of muddied blues, purples, greens, yellows and reds. If people didn’t know better, I told my husband with a laugh, they might think that I’d been beaten. 

It took weeks for the swelling and discoloration to resolve. I went about my life, aware of both my face and people’s responses to it. Their pitying, uncomfortable, sometimes disgusted expressions told me what they were thinking: I was being abused. But nobody ever asked me how I was, how it had happened or even if it hurt. 

“I can’t believe it!” I’d rail to my husband. “Not one person has asked. Not one!” 

It wasn’t long before my disbelief gave way to resentment. I started testing people. When our eyes met, I’d refuse to look away, silently daring them to ignore my face. Sometimes I’d relent and reveal that I’d had some teeth pulled. An expression of relief, tinged with lingering suspicion, would wash over their faces. But their nervous

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