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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December 2016

Going Through the Grits

Scott Newport

It was another day at a renovation project on the fourth floor of an office building. Glancing at my iPhone, I noticed that my buddy Dave had called a couple of times. Now, coming down a stepladder for what seemed like the hundredth time, I saw his name pop up again. This time I set down my hammer and found a quiet place.

“Hey Scott, ol’ buddy, I got a request,” Dave said. “Last week at hunting camp, a friend of mine was impressed with my restored knife. As we were sitting around the campfire, I told him that you’re kind of a blacksmith, and that you refurbish knives. I wonder if you could fix up his, too. He lent it to me, and I want to return it to him as a Christmas present.”

After work, I picked up the knife from Dave and headed home. There I walked into my workshop, a few yards from my house, set the knife on my bench, then went up to the house.

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DDoA Seehra


Amrita Seehra

About the artist: 

“Krithika Kavanoor (left) and I are both family-medicine residents at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx. As primary-care providers in one of the poorest urban counties in the US, we see firsthand the impact that access to health care–and the lack thereof–can have on our patients. The narratives we share are the personal stories of people who’ve been able to receive health care through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and combined Medicaid/Medicare coverage. Repealing the ACA will deal a serious blow to health justice. The US is the only developed nation that does not recognize health care as a fundamental human right. Along with many other clinicians, we believe that health care is a basic human right, and we will continue to advocate for accessible and affordable health care for our patients, and for all people.”

About the artwork:

“On December 12, 2016, Universal Health Coverage Day, the Universal Health Coverage Coalition

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Searching for My Superpower

My name is Tamara, and I have a blood cancer, Polycythemia Vera, which means in my bone marrow, the essence of my being, I have a mutation. Like the X-Men, only I have yet to discover my superpower.

You see it is freaking rush hour up in here. Too many red blood cells and platelets and not enough neurotransmitters or oxygen, and what this means is I feel like the life and the person I want to be have been hijacked.

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Finding Answers

When he was 24 years old, my first husband had a stroke. A blood clot blocked a vital artery deep in his brain. One side of his body fell flaccid. Speech and language fled. To all of my urgent questions, the neurologists at Massachusetts General Hospital could only reply, “We don’t know.” They didn’t know why it happened. There was no way to dissolve the clot or reverse the damage. They simply tried to keep him alive and waited.

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Perfect Timing

Linda Kobert

Monday, 7:30 am, DR two. I’m circulating,
the nurse who isn’t sterile, the surgical team’s link
with the unclean world. Before the incision,
I have ten things to do. I keep the list in my head:
check suction, position lights, turn on Bovie, toe
the steel bucket next to the surgeon’s feet.

The scrub nurse and I do the count: sponges, needles, clamps.
I chart these numbers. Post op the count must match. I snag
the tips of the ties on the surgeon’s sterile gown. He spins

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Occupational Empathy

On my first day shadowing an occupational therapist, I learned much more than I had anticipated.
We saw five patients that morning—with each one, the OT went through a series of exercises to test their strength and mobility. The first four visits were interesting, though uneventful, as the patients completed their exercises with varying degrees of success.
The last patient was a man with a history of alcoholism. He had a tube in his throat, which prevented him from speaking. A resident outside the room informed us that no one had been able to get him to cooperate. Judging by the smirk on his face, he didn’t think we were going to get anywhere, either.

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Lisa Walker

My brother-in-law, Ron, was a curmudgeon; grumpy, sullen, even downright mean at times.

By blood, he and my husband Bill were cousins. In the 1950s, when Bill was just a child, his mother died unexpectedly, and Ron’s mother took Bill in to live with her and her four children. They were an African-American family living in the midst of a middle-class, predominantly white Connecticut township. Their home, located on a wealthy family’s farmland, had one bedroom, wood heat and no running water. Each day, Ron’s mother walked five miles to and from town, where she did laundry and cleaned houses to support the family.

Bill and Ron were close in age; they considered each other brothers. I met Bill when I was in my forties and he was in his late fifties, so I knew Ron only during the last few years of his life.

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A Beacon of Hope

I never realized the importance of surrounding myself with people in need of hope until I experienced a difficult time in my life, a time when I needed to lean on others to find hope and solace.

During the fall semester of my sophomore year in college, I suffered the loss of my grandma to lung cancer. I became wracked with guilt, anxiety and depression following the death of this essential member of my family. When I was informed of my grandma’s terminal illness, I had joined a support group; in this group, I cried and yelled until I came to accept that my grandma would not live to see me graduate from college or medical school or witness any of the milestones I’d achieve in my life–a fact that was especially disheartening for me.

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Paging Cardiology

Geoffrey Rubin

At 5:07 pm on July 27 of last year, my pager’s beep pierced the bustle of the hospital hallway: “CARDIAC ARREST, 6GS room 356 bed 2. Need cards STAT.”

It was only seven minutes into my first overnight call as a cardiology (“cards”) fellow, and I felt like I’d received a code-dose shot of epinephrine. In a most un-doctorly manner, I sprinted up the four flights of stairs to the ward.

Panting, I burst into the patient’s room, to be greeted by a cacophony of bells, bleeps and whistles, latex gloves snapping and catheter kits crackling.

A mob of nurses, residents, care coordinators and technicians turned to face me. Twenty pairs of eyes focused on my own.

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