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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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September 2014

Busting Grandma Out

S.E. Street

I had been in London on business all of seven hours when my son, Tom, called me at two in the morning from our hometown, Sydney, Australia. 

“Grandma’s had a fall. She’s been taken to the hospital, but she’s all right.”

My mother’s having a fall was nothing unusual; she had always been an unpredictable fainter. My husband and children and I called it her party trick, making light of it to soothe her embarrassment. 

She had no recollection of these episodes; one minute she’d be seated at the table, and the next, she’d be lying on her back on the floor, her feet propped up on a chair, with the family smiling down at her as if she were Sleeping Beauty awakening from years of slumber. 

We are a medical and nursing family–I’m a retired nurse, and my husband, brother and sister-in-law are doctors–and we’d long since had her undergo exhaustive tests to check for serious underlying conditions. The tests had revealed nothing other than a slow heart rate and an occasional drop in blood pressure.

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tender mercies killackey

Tender Mercies


Janet Killackey

About the artist: 

“I have always been interested in art. I chose nursing as a vocation, but my interest in art continued to grow, in fits and starts, during my forty-five years in health care. I have worked in many areas of nursing practice and also in many mediums–charcoal, pen and ink, oils, watercolors and now mixed media. I feel that this piece reflects where I am now–merging my life experiences in art and in the practice of nursing, both of which bring a level of comfort and caring to others.”

About the artwork:

“I started this mixed-media piece several years ago and then set it aside. The model at the time was my fourteen-year-old daughter. I asked her to sit in my old nursing uniform. As my forty-fifth nursing school reunion approached, I went back to the piece. Much had happened in the nursing profession since the time my classmates and I had graduated. I was thinking about the connections that remained within our group and

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A Doctor’s Dilemma

Jessica Zitter

It was my first day at my new job, practicing a new specialty. Having spent fourteen years as an ICU physician–including a four-year pulmonary/critical-care fellowship in this very hospital–I had just completed a palliative-care fellowship. Now I was the hospital’s palliative-care consult attending.

When I set eyes on the patient in room 1407, my first thought was: THIS LADY NEEDS TO BE INTUBATED–STAT!

The only trouble was that my job was to ease this patient’s passing, not to prolong her life.

The team had told me that Mrs. Zelnick, an eighty-two-year-old widow, was dying from pneumonia and didn’t want to be put on life support.

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The Bodies Green and Blue

Krupa Harishankar

Reflections from the anatomy lab
overlooking Central Park

Reluctant, the same green

light over that copse of trees

and sheet of lawn glares and

bends through the lifted-open

cage of ribs, branched veins,

and cragged spine. Exposed,

my hands appear on the gurney

as a child’s. The one across 

needled grass applauds small

palms, not distant, but sound

mutes here. Joy does not carry

heft like limbs of the corpse

before me. In layers of blue

latex, the uniform tint of a pond

rendered from afar–its depth

imprecise–I glove and delve

into the viscera, leaving this

abdomen a cavity. I wonder

what hands have touched you.

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Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia

Auditory Hallucinations in Schizophrenia–8 mm


Eva Catenaccio

About the artist: 

Eva Catenaccio is a medical student at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY. “I spent a summer working with a neuropsychiatrist and a radiologist examining functional neuroimaging in schizophrenia. My paintings explore the ways in which images are used to communicate scientific results to both professional and lay audiences; and also how, when taken out of context, these images become open to an array of emotional interpretations. I like to imagine the patients who participated in these research studies examining the work as a reflection of their own experience of illness.”

About the artwork:

“This is a painting of the statistical parametric map generated by the analysis of regional cerebral blood flow as measured by positron-emission tomography during verbal auditory hallucinations in five patients with schizophrenia. The work is inspired by the paper “A functional neuroanatomy of hallucinations in schizophrenia,” by Silbersweig et al (Nature, 1995). During PET scanning, subjects in this study were asked to press a button every time

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