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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December 2013

She Lives in a Small Cell

Linda Evans

She lives in a small cell
on the Maximum Security Unit
pregnant with her tenth love child
the other nine scattered 
like dried leaves in the wind. 
Beneath the baggy government-issued jumpsuit 
her belly swells and shifts with the weight of life
a heaviness of never hearing first words, 
seeing first steps, or kissing cherub cheeks goodnight, 
thoughts as chilling to the bone 
as the December blizzard outside.
Over the intercom Officer Ryan’s frantic voice, 
“She’s in labor!’

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Concierge Care

Deborah Pierce

I am a family physician. Like most of my colleagues, though, I must sometimes step out of the comfort of my clinical role to take on the role of patient or family caregiver.

Generally, these trips to the other side of the exam table inspire a fair amount of anxiety.

During visits to the doctor, I find myself noticing many details and comparing the quality of care to that in my own practice. I worry about how the doctor will relate to me–will I be viewed as a knowledgeable colleague, or as someone who knows relatively little? Will my background be treated with respect? Will my needs as a patient or caregiver be acknowledged? The uncertainty eases only when the physician wins my trust by showing both competence and caring.

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Catching My Breath

Pam Kress-Dunn

When he was five, my son Daniel went through a rough patch with his asthma. Both he and his sister Allison had been diagnosed the year before, when we were living in Colorado. I never knew if it was the fault of the pollution that too often smeared our view of the mountains, or my then-husband’s two-pack-daily cigarette habit. Or was it the unspoken shriek of anxiety?

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blum - grief and gratitude

Grief and Gratitude

Alan Blum

About the artist: 

Alan Blum is a Professor and Gerald Leon Wallace MD Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa. A self-taught artist, he has published three books of his sketches and stories of patients, and his artworks have appeared in more than a dozen medical journals and textbooks. He is a frequent guest speaker at medical schools in courses in the humanities.

About the artwork:

This sketch in ballpoint pen on the back of a prescription pad is of a woman I helped care for more than twenty-five years ago. During her first visit to the family-practice clinic, I had listened to her poignant history and had left the room to let her prepare for the physical examination. She was sad but composed. When I returned, however, she was quietly sobbing. ‘Our son committed suicide three years ago,’ she said. ‘We had to file for bankruptcy. The only thing I’m really happy about is my husband stopped drinking and driving for a whole year.’ ”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

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Andrea Gordon

She was a rainbows and unicorns girl,
predictable passions at appropriate ages.
Shy smile and just-above-average grades.

Yearly visits by the book, or, in this case,
computer screen prompts.
Milestones noted, talk about diet,
ceremonial exam, note straightness of spine.
All on track, along the mapped out course,
 until an extra visit at thirteen.
Mom had called: “She’s changed. I’m worried.”
Is she just becoming a normal teen?

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