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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June 2016

Engage Brain before Putting Mouth in Gear

After the above-knee amputation of her second leg, the still-too-young diabetic woman did not wish to fight her terrible illness anymore. In due course, she qualified for inpatient hospice.
Today I came to the bedside as the end was approaching, her pain well-controlled with a morphine infusion and her agitation now departed along with most of her speech and perception. Recognizing that my physical examination should be short and tailored to her needs, I planned simply to observe her eyes, her skin, her breathing and her responsiveness. To make sure she was dying comfortably, free of suffering.
I had met her supportive, anguished husband many times during our palliative consultation and follow-up. I greeted Mr. X and said, “If it’s okay, I’d like to do a short examination of your wife now. You are welcome to stay. I won’t do anything embarrassing. I just want to speak to your wife, look at her eyes, observe her breathing and look at her feet.”
“But she has no feet.”

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Happy Feet

D. Micah Milgraum

It’s a typical chaotic day on the hospital’s hematology and oncology floor. I’m sitting in a side room with one of my fellow medical students, doing paperwork and making follow-up calls for our medical team.

That’s when the music starts. The sounds of two guitars, a tambourine and a few maracas drift down the hallway. I can’t make out how many people are singing, but the happy voices and the song’s upbeat tempo make me curious: I never thought I’d hear this type of music on the “cancer floor.”

As I look up in surprise, Kevin, our team’s intern, appears in the doorway.

He catches my eye, and after a moment, we both start bobbing our heads to the beat. He makes swaying motions, as if he wants to dance.

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los manos delaney

Las Manos de Cada Doctor

Marc Delaney

About the artist: 

“Originally from a small town in Upstate New York, I’m now in my fourth year at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, also in New York. I’m applying for residency programs in pediatrics. I graduated in 2013 from St. Lawrence University with a degree in biology. I love Pulse because I think that creative expression allows self-reflection that can help us be better healthcare providers. The things we do every day in medicine are ethically and emotionally complex; painting is often how I engage more deeply in what I do.”

About the artwork:

 “This painting (The Hands of Every Doctor) was submitted as one of two ‘sister’ oil paintings. The ‘sister’ painting is a recreation of one of my favorite Diego Rivera paintings, Las Manos del Doctor Moore. That painting depicts a surgeon’s hands ‘pruning the tree of life’ in the operating room. I painted this work in the

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Body Language

Alan Harris

after my father had his stroke
we never spoke again
but that didn’t stop us
from reading each other’s faces

recognizing the punctuated pauses
periods and question marks
etched in eyes, sighs and sad smiles

It took both hands to hold one of his
that first day in the hospital
as my eyes whispered how much I cared
and his smile replied, Thank you

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A 3:00 a.m. Phone Call

When the phone rang at 3:00 a.m., as I reached out my hand to answer it I knew the call was bringing bad news. On the other end of the line, I heard my dad’s croaky, Parkinsonian voice stammer,”Rozzie, I’m so cold. Come here and help me; I can’t reach the blanket to cover myself.” It seemed like forever before he was able to squeeze out the additional information that he’d called the front desk at the assisted-care facility where he lived, but Jose, the night attendant, had said he was alone and couldn’t leave the desk, even for a few minutes. 
I told my dad I’d take care of the problem, dialed the front desk number, and listened to Jose explain that the other night attendant had left for an emergency, and he was under strict orders to never leave the desk unattended.

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Showing Up

Sarah Bigham

Years ago, as I left my college dorm room, the posters caught my eye. Plastered everywhere, they announced a bone-marrow drive led by a fellow student in search of a match for his brother, diagnosed with cancer.

A confirmed needlephobe, I’d recently fled a Red Cross blood drive at the mere thought of the tourniquet. Registering as a bone-marrow donor seemed like a terrible idea–but the sibling connection grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The eldest of four, I pictured my sisters and brother at home, two states away. If any of them had developed this terrible illness, I knew that I, too, would implore my classmates to be tested. So, with several friends, I made the trek across campus to register and have my blood drawn.

I hope someone here is a match, I thought, looking around at the crowd.

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