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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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December 2012

Nineteen Steps

Priscilla Mainardi

Tuesday morning, eight o’clock, and I have seven things to do. Check vitals, change a dressing, get a patient out of bed, send another to the operating room. Review lab results, give medications, start a blood transfusion.

I have six patients, and they have an average of five morning medications each. I make three trips to the med room for supplies, two trips to the pantry for fresh water. 

Mrs. Napoli has eight pills. She has trouble swallowing them, so I circle the unit to find the pill crusher, stopping again at the pantry for applesauce to mix them up in. 

Mrs. Napoli is a wisp of an old woman, light enough for a strong wind to blow over. Her wide blue eyes, which usually radiate a steady calm, look strained. The lines and grooves of her face are tense with pain. 

The pain is a seven. Earlier this morning it was a five. It was a ten when she fell in her backyard, fracturing her hip; right after her surgery, it was an eight. I go to the med room and draw morphine into a syringe and give it to her over two minutes, watching the second » Continue Reading.

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Memento Mori

Craig W. Steele

Quo Vadis Nursing Home haunts the east side of Erie Street,

squatting opposite Roselawn Cemetery, whose wrought-iron gates 

gape tauntingly wide and welcoming. Today will soon be buried: 

three wizened men sit rocking, speechless, on the front porch, 

yearning for the shadowed marble and granite headstones,

no longer afraid of death, only of dying–suspended

between fear and need, stoically awaiting

the next busload of grade-schoolers determined

to brighten their deep-shadowed days.

Editor’s Note: Memento mori is a Latin phrase translated as “remember your mortality,” “remember you must die” or “remember you will die” [from Wikipedia].

About the poet:

Craig W. Steele is a writer and university biologist whose creative musings occur in the suburban countryside of northwestern Pennsylvania, where he writes for both children and adults. His poetry has appeared recently in The AuroreanPoetry QuarterlyAstropoeticaThe LyricPopular AstronomySpaceports & Spidersilk and at Stone Path Review, where he was the featured poet this fall.

About the poem:

“My grandfather spent the last few years of

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Missing Piece

Ray Bingham

I entered the hospital by a back door. It was evening. As I walked down the quiet corridors, their cinder-block walls, green paint, tiled floors and soft fluorescent lighting granted me a superficial sense of familiarity: I’d walked these halls countless times over the last five years.

Now, however, I also felt a bit apprehensive. I was not supposed to be here. 

Two weeks before, I’d been laid off. It had been the second round of staffing cuts in six months–due, the administrators said, to declining revenues. They made this claim despite the continued high numbers of patients in my unit, the newborn intensive-care unit, or NICU. 

As a veteran nurse, I’d spoken up. The cuts, I’d said, were leading to understaffing, to increased stress among the nurses and to declining care for our fragile patients. Soon after, they’d canned me. 

Not risking the elevators, I climbed the stairs to the third-floor landing outside the NICU. I had a flimsy pretext for visiting: I wanted some of my former colleagues’ phone numbers to use as job references. Mostly, though, I just missed

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