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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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July 2014

Mothers Day Hourigan

A Last Mother’s Day


Terry Hourigan

About the artist: 

 “I’m a father, nurse, writer and humor lover.  After my mom’s death in 1983, I became a hospice volunteer and then decided to go into medical service, leaving a photo career to do so.  I went briefly into the NYC emergency medical service, then attended nursing school and went into AIDS and cancer home care and hospice work.  It’s been twenty years now, interrupted in 2011 by colon cancer; the chemo rooms gave me some ‘no escape’ time in which I found that I could write.”

About the artwork:

 “I met Bernie Siegel in my former photojournalism career.  Asked about hospice, he sent me to meet his patient Sonny (pictured with her son, above, at the Branford inpatient facility).  ‘Sonny was one special lady,’ he told me.  He described how she asked a friend why he was hanging around with her instead of out having fun.  He answered, ‘You have touched me, and I have grown.’

“When I » Continue Reading.

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Beating the Numbers Racket

Thuy D. Bui

“What’s my number?” shouted Betsy as I entered the examination room one day last fall.

“Oh, you mean your A1C? It’s nine-point-four!” I answered. A sentence sped through my mind: “The hemoglobin A1C number tells how well a patient’s diabetes is controlled–seven or less is good.” In my seven years as Betsy’s primary-care doctor, I’ve repeated this information at visits and included it in appointment reminders as well.

Betsy is a pale, stocky woman in her sixties, with short, neatly cropped hair. Her rather tentative smile, to me, always seemed a bit forced, as if covering up for underlying pain. And she’s had plenty of pain in her life.

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Last Rites

Candice Carnes

In 2002, I was living in Albuquerque and working as a nursing assistant. My staffing agency had assigned me to a medical surgical floor at a hospital in Santa Fe, a fifty-minute drive away.

One day, as I was enjoying the high-desert beauty en route to the hospital, a code was called.

The patient’s name was Sam, as I recall. It could have been anything, but Sam is the name that echoes in my memories of that day.

His heart stopped.

I hadn’t arrived at the hospital yet, but I had been involved in enough codes to know what had been done.

Despite his advanced age, Sam had full-code status with no restrictions, meaning that he or his family had wanted everything possible done to save his life.

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Justin Sanders

About the artist: 

Justin Sanders trained as a family doctor and is now pursuing a career in palliative care. He has written stories for Pulse and serves as its visuals editor. Having studied art history and worked in the fine arts, he has a deep faith in their healing power. Justin and his wife live in Boston. When not tending to their four-month-old daughter, Cecily, he loves to mess up recipes from a growing cookbook collection and to read The New Yorker.

About the artwork:

Edifice: (1) a building, especially a large, imposing one; (2) a complex system of beliefs. “As a palliative-care fellow, I often passed the window from which this photo was taken, marveling at the view. It’s a scene that captures, for me, the complexity of our healthcare system. It also reminds me of the impact of that complexity on the patients behind the mirrored facades and on those of us who work within these institutions. As a fellow, I often met

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Maggie Westland

I have a dance routine all in my hands, with steps
To take to make them bend again, at least to stall
The stalk of past abuse, of joint and sinew overuse

This jig more intricate, more complex, more diffuse
Than simple shuffles of the well-shod foot, requires
Both patience brute and gentle force to stake its worth

I dance five times each day twice daily bathe in wax
Or wrap socks full of rice from wrist to finger’s tip
Twist, push, press on in rhythmic jerks response

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