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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February 2014


Cheryl Lewis

Knotted seams gather scrubbed skin
and titanium plumbs a heart–
guide wires routing an improvised pulse
and tracing an erratic existence.

In the beginning doctors said
genetic mistake, detrimental
mutation, one in 10,000
statistically speaking. God’s will.

At night we wrestle with angels.
Celestial static, incandescent
blue they search our souls
and finger a laboring heart,
heavy like dense lumpy clay
waterlogged and unformed.

Pacemaker Read More »

Dear Joseph

Michael Terry

I stood right beside them as they slowly slid your head into a plastic bag, looped the coarse twine about your neck and tied it tightly. Like the amateurs they were, they double-knotted it to make sure nothing came loose or dripped out. Then they casually walked away, chatting about what would come next.

Within minutes the bag fogged up, and a clear red liquid pooled at the bottom.

That was just the beginning of the ritual.

I’m sure that under other circumstances you would have put up a fight, Joseph, but today you were no match for them. No matter that they were six slender twenty-somethings, and you at least six feet and 250 pounds; you were on their turf and utterly at their mercy.

Dear Joseph Read More »

moon - sanders


Justin Sanders

About the artist: 

Justin Sanders trained as a family doctor and is now pursuing a career in palliative care. He and his wife live in Boston, preparing to welcome their first child into the world. Having studied art history and worked in the fine arts, he has a deep faith in their healing power. He is a Pulse author and serves as its visuals editor. When not frantically cleaning house in preparation for a baby, he loves to mess up recipes from a growing cookbook collection and to read The New Yorker.

About the artwork:

“My wife’s pregancy has been an amazing time for us. It’s remarkable that such a common event can be one that feels so profoundly unique. Becoming pregnant took unexpected effort and time, and so excitement has been tempered throughout by worry that things will turn out okay. I took this photo at thirty-seven weeks, full term, and it reminded me of a waxing moon. As a family doctor with experience in obstetrics, one

Moon Read More »

Secret Admirer

Kristen Nace

You will never see my face or know my name. You probably won’t give much thought to what happens to your blood after your doctor says, “I think we need to run some tests,” and the phlebotomist draws it into the tubes with their colored tops. I know I never did, until I became a medical laboratory technologist.

Over the course of a normal day at the hospital lab, my coworkers and I process hundreds of patient specimens–everything from blood to bone, from sputum to spinal fluid. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, the specimens come to us from the hospital’s ER and ICU, from doctor’s offices and nursing homes, from the inpatients on the floors above us and from outpatients who walk in through the hospital’s doors.

Secret Admirer Read More »

She sat on the curb

Tammy Hansen Snell

She sat on the curb in her hospital gown
pretending not to see me coming.
The tube from her hand to the IV pole in the street
lifted the flimsy sleeve of her robe.
Cars went by, and we both watched them
as if we cared what color they were.
The IV pole in the street didn’t matter
unless two cars went by at the same time.
“You can go away and leave me alone,” she said,
knowing my job wouldn’t let me do that.

She sat on the curb Read More »

Stained Marrow - OBranski

Stained Marrow

Erin O’Branski

About the artist: 

Erin O’Branski is a physician assistant practicing in hematology-oncology at the Duke Cancer Institute. She is also a continuing-education student at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke. She is currently documenting art and beauty in everyday life in the hospital, a project which began as a way to process the pain and sadness associated with life-threatening diseases. Her recent short documentary Cancer Warriors can be seen at

About the artwork:

“After performing a bone-marrow biopsy, I accompanied the lab technician to the lab and photographed the process of staining the cover slips that are placed on specimen slides. I really liked the colors, especially the cover slip with water on it; it looks like a jewel.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

Stained Marrow Read More »

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