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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May 2011


Sara Rempe

The women moved through silence
like monks through a garden, all focus

and white cotton, soaping, rinsing,
lifting her body to sponge

her swollen skin. We were
there when they cleaned her

of diarrhea, sliding an arm
under her when she struggled to move

she’d groan, suck in, drop–
limbs like thin shoots

of bamboo: rickety and trembling
under a papery sheet.

She’d climbed a mountain the week
before, stretching in the thin pure

air, ecstatic,
as though it were something other

than her body
that brought her there.

About the poet:

Sara Rempe is a writer and teacher in New York City. She received her master’s degree in creative writing from Hunter College and currently teaches in the college’s English department.

About the poem:

“I was hoping to point to two things in this poem: the swiftness with which illness can claim a person and render the immediate past totally incongruent with the present; and the experience of not being the primary caretaker when a loved one » Continue Reading.

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Just This Once

Majid Khan

It’s a rainy Thursday evening in our small inner-city practice. Today is the receptionist’s birthday, and I’ve been cordially invited to attend a small party prepared by her coworkers.

As I descend the green carpeted steps to the lounge, my aching muscles remind me about the torture session (otherwise known as “boxercise”) that I attended last night in my ongoing effort to get fit and control my weight. I still feel slightly resentful of Robert, the trainer; when he caught me slacking off during sit-ups, he embarrassed me in front of the class by making me repeat them.

Good job I didn’t tell him about those two slices of cake I ate last week….

I turn at the bottom of the stairs and enter the lounge. The tables are full; there’s something for every taste bud. For no apparent reason, while exchanging pleasantries with the staff members, I remember Daniel.

When Daniel visited our practice, he looked like so many others I’d seen. He wore a scruffy brown coat and tracksuit pants. There was also the faint aroma, neither pleasant nor unpleasant,

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Genuine Touch

Jonathan Gotfried

I was a medical student doing my fourth-year rotation on the oncology floor. The floor offered many new sights, and from the first, I was struck by the two mammoth massage chairs sitting in a corner at the end of the longest corridor. 

Their exaggerated curves were plastered with jet-black faux leather adorned with stitching details. Long, smooth armrests of oak jutted out on either side. The remote control was a virtual supercomputer offering thousands of programs designed to enhance one’s massaging pleasure–kneading, fast, pressure, heat, full-body massage. On either side of the plush headrest, strategically placed speakers would play soft classical music, drowning out the low hum of the motor that powered the massage. Proudly, the label on the back declared these to be “Genuine Touch” massage chairs. 

“These chairs were purchased to make the patients’ experience as comfortable and pain-free as possible,” explained my supervising physician on my first day there. 

Other attempts to help ease stress and pain were everywhere. An acupuncturist sometimes joined the teams of doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists and pastors. There was a daily prayer group, and teams

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Addeane Caelleigh

Do the trees, like us, dream
of falling, falling into the earth’s flat embrace
or share the lilies’ dread of being ripped
from the dark earth,

Maybe they are more like my friend Annie,
who dreams of being on stage naked
but unembarrassed,
continuing her favorite lecture
to the unseen watchers beyond the lights.

I hope my mother, who has been sleeping so long,
is like my friend,
unafraid and doing what she loves,
with no fear of being ripped from life
or falling into the void.
I hope that somewhere beyond the tubes
and beeps and the clasp of my hand
her true self stands, with the trees,
looking ahead.

About the poet:

Addeane Caelleigh works on issues of accreditation and curriculum at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. She is also senior editor of Hospital Drive, the school’s online journal of literature and art.

About the poem:

“When first written, the poem was fictional though deeply felt. Reworked sporatically over the next couple of years, it proved prophetic of the final months of my mother’s life last fall.”

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