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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April 2016


Linda E. Clarke

Once upon a long eighteen years ago, I got sick.

I was just finishing ten years of hospital-based ethics work, and at first I thought that the work had made me sick. I thought that the stress of hearing so many difficult stories, of witnessing so much suffering, was hurting me. I was wrong.

I was sick from a growth in my brain.

The growth was found after I’d shuttled from doctor to doctor, from appointment to appointment, from X-ray to scan. It took a long year. By then, my pain was clothed in shame. Undiagnosed pain does that: It draws the gaze of friends, family and providers. Everyone looks for the cause.

“Soul pain,” said one doctor. “Anxiety,” said another.

Guinness Read More »

Dad Sandek

ICU Horror

Jessica Sandek

About the artist: 

A native New Yorker, Jessica has been using art as her language of expression for most of her life. She earned her BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and now lives in the mountains of Southern California, where she works as a full-time artist. “I am always taking a visual dictation of my surroundings; I listen closely to the things I see. The intricate detail in my artwork is a result of my desire to record what isn’t always obvious. My goal is to capture the essene of these things in the most beautiful way that I can.”

About the artwork:

ICU Horror is one drawing in a series that I did during my stay beside my father while he was in the ICU. Watching his vulnerability was horrifying. I saw him morph from a vigorous man to a defenseless child.”

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I head out of the emergency department of our local tertiary care hospital. The waiting room seems pitifully small, probably twenty chairs, with the security desk, check-in desk, triage station and the entrance doors in close proximity. There’s no space for pacing here, and sometimes not enough chairs.

I notice a familiar figure, dressed in bright red, who stands out from the others. With a start, I realize it’s Joyce, one of my heroes. Joyce is the nurse practice manager at our sister health center, and she’s transformed the place into one known for its engaged staff and team-based care. Her warmth and enthusiasm are contagious.

Normally, seeing Joyce fills me joy and anticipation of what great news or interesting question she has for me. But quickly my anticipation turns to dread. She shouldn’t be sitting here, not at 11 pm on a weeknight.

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We Pretend That We’re Not Afraid

Caitlin Bass

We stand outside in the heat. We swat at the occasional persistent mosquito. We try to ignore the sweat beading down our foreheads and the backs of our necks. We retreat to the deepest recesses of shade we can find. We wish for a hint of a wisp of a smidgen of a breeze. We hold court on life and love. We laugh and tease and are determined to have a good time. We could be in Atlanta or Austin or Anytown, USA.

We pretend that we’re not afraid.

We are afraid, though. Our fear is legitimate: Some people hate us. And some of them are armed and dangerous.

We Pretend That We’re Not Afraid Read More »

Vinyl Cushion

I arrive in the waiting room nearly a half hour early and confirm my existence with two insurance cards and a questionnaire that asks me yet again to list my illnesses, allergies, and medications. Most seats are occupied by old people, older than me. Or maybe the same age. It’s difficult to say who is with whom because those who are not making love to their cell phones are paging through OK!, People and Star. Nobody’s eyes are on anyone.

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Breathing the Same Air

Ronald Lands

His hand-carved pipes still lean
in their rack like a row of saxophones
and fill the room with memories
of black vinyl records, Glenn Miller’s band
playing “Chattanooga Choo Choo,”
a kitchen match scratched
across the bottom of his shoe
and swirling clouds of tobacco smoke,
a tribute to the charred remains
of the man who still lives in smoke-filled
images of when we breathed the same air.

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Juxtaposed Mary K


Mary Kilcoyne

About the artist: 

“In July 2014 I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Before that I was a baker, but since my chemotherapy port wouldn’t allow me to lift more than forty pounds I had to put that on hold. So I started looking for something else that I could do to be creative. Enter photography.”

About the artwork:

“My sister is the reason I took this photo. She could see how conflicted I was about cancer and chemotherapy, and the realization that my life would never be the same again. One morning she told me to grab my camera, and we walked around our property trading the camera back and forth and taking pictures. She wasn’t trying to distract me from everything, but rather to find some way to express it. Thus this work’s title, Juxtaposed. The last chapter title from The Magician’s Nephew, by C.S. Lewis, always stuck with me: ‘The End of This Story

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What Money Can Buy

Hind Almazeedi

Arwa arrives late to the clinic. Her husband is parked outside waiting for her.

“You missed your last two appointments,” I say, checking her records. It’s been four months.

“I didn’t have a ride,” she shrugs.

Many of my patients live close to the primary-care center in Kuwait where I work as a family physician, but the desert heat makes it impossible to come here on foot. Two minutes under the sun can leave you delirious, and if you have asthma, the sudden dust storms are a constant threat. Without an air-conditioned car, you’re essentially homebound.

I know this, so I don’t argue with Arwa.

What Money Can Buy Read More »

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