fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Close this search box.

fostering the humanistic practice of medicine publishing personal accounts of illness and healing encouraging health care advocacy

Close this search box.

March 2019

What Did the Doctor Say?

Charlotte Grinberg ~

Here’s what they should have told you: “We found cancer in your lymph nodes, your liver, your lungs and your brain. It explains your weight loss, your difficulty breathing and your loss of appetite. This wasn’t just your depression, like you thought. It started in your lungs, and now it’s everywhere. This cancer has been growing for quite some time. You cannot, even with the strongest medications and the longest surgeries, make this cancer disappear. It is too powerful. It is here to stay.”

They should have said, “We wish we had better news, but it looks very serious. Still, we’re here to care for you. We will not let you feel alone. Imagine the place you want to spend the last hours, days, months of your life. Which people do you want to be surrounded by? What do you want to read or listen to? What foods and smells bring you the most joy? We want you to go to this place. Eat as many macaroons as you like, burn your favorite candle, hold your two daughters close.”

What Did the Doctor Say? Read More »

laughter po prn

Slavena Salve Nissan ~

if you happened to pass by room 2
in a medical practice somewhere uptown
some time in the spring
you would’ve heard
a medical student and her patient
giggling like toddlers
right in the middle of the cranial nerve exam
what a thing to hear

if only i could write that prescription
laughter po prn
no copay required

laughter po prn Read More »

Together Through the Rainbow Bridge

Pris Campbell

About the artist:

Pris Campbell has created graphics for haiga and has twice been published in Pulse. She was a clinical psychologist before ME/CFS rended her housebound. She makes her home with her husband in the Greater West Palm Beach area.

About the artwork:

“This is the last morning my husband spent with our cat before Spike crossed the Rainbow Bridge. The death of a beloved pet is like losing a member of the family, so this was a heartbreaking time.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

Together Through the Rainbow Bridge Read More »

Tucking Him In

Peggy Murphy ~

I need to see Justin before my workday commences. I’m a social worker at the outpatient cancer center where Justin has been treated for an aggressive colon cancer.

Seeing him today means visiting him in the hospital, up the road from the center.

It’s almost surreal.

When I first met Justin, nearly two years ago, he looked every bit the linebacker–well over six feet tall, with a girth to match. A man in his late fifties, he had a booming voice and an engaging personality. He was married, a successful wining-and-dining stockbroker, active in his town and in the local Italian American Society.

Tucking Him In Read More »

A Soldier’s Tale

Scott Janssen ~

“You ever work with vets?” asks the young man sitting across from me in the hospital waiting room.

He’s been sitting there all morning. So have I. Since 5:30 am, my father-in-law, age eighty-eight, has been undergoing surgery to remove a tumor in his lung. The surgeons just sent word that they’ve finished, and my wife and her mother have gone to the post-op room to see him.

Waiting for them to return, my wife’s sister and I have been talking about her son, who’s thinking of joining the Air Force.

“Warn him about the recruiters and their shiny promises,” I say. “Tell him they’re all a bunch of liars.”

“That’s for damn sure,” the man says.

We smile at each other and chat for a bit, then my sister-in-law starts messing with her cellphone, opting out of the conversation.

The man tells me that he was in the Army for twenty years, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A Soldier’s Tale Read More »

The World in the Right Direction

Sara Kohrt

About the artist:

Sara Kohrt is a researcher, analyzing dialogues between patients and providers to identify communication gaps, and serves as the visuals editor for Pulse. She and her son live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina. 

About the artwork:

“I was attending a weekend workshop through the narrative-medicine program at Columbia University, and we were given an assignment to produce an image or creative work on the theme of care. I was walking in the neighborhood where I was staying and took a wrong turn, but ended up going in the right direction to discover this sign outside of a West Village townhome. The sign reads, If we all do one random act of kindness daily we just might set the world in the right direction.” 


Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

The World in the Right Direction Read More »

Full Disclosure

After a long night, the frigid morning air slapped me awake as I walked out of the hospital from just attending a delivery. Once home, I decided I had enough energy to do a “high intensity” workout and signed myself up to go in an hour.

I made myself a strong cup of coffee and changed into my gym clothes, pretending I was just starting a new day. Back into the cold with the coffee lingering on my breath, I headed out again.

For some reason, the workout seemed especially hard. I even commented to the woman next to me, “Isn’t this

Full Disclosure Read More »

Tell Me it’s Nothing to Worry About

Bill has always been one of my healthiest patients. In his mid-sixties, I see him for annual check-ups and for one minor complaint or another. He is proud of his healthy lifestyle and has an air of invicibility about him. He often rants about how people are lazy and bring illness on themselves.
I’ve grown accustomed to handing Bill far more reassurance than prescriptions. Until this week, that is, when he pointed to his mid-chest and began to tell me his story.

Tell Me it’s Nothing to Worry About Read More »

The Epithet

She appeared suddenly in the doorway and hissed, “You’re very rude!” 

With her words echoing around the darkened room, the evening nurse stomped off the ward as I went back to assessing my patient.

It was 1966. As a third-year nursing student assigned to the night shift, I shared responsibility for a twenty-bed unit with a nurse’s aide. The evening nurse and I had just finished the two time-honored traditions that occurred with the change of shifts: patient report and counting narcotics. 

The Epithet Read More »

Happy Birthday

“Oh my god, this whole thing was so crazy!” the patient exclaimed, relief tinged with exasperation.

“Yea, that was crazy –,” I caught myself and glanced nervously at the resident, hoping I hadn’t committed a classic medical student-gaffe.

He responded diplomatically, something about having made the right call for the situation.

We should have been in the OR hours earlier, at the first sign of fetal distress. Instead, she was left writhing in pain in the labor bed. I wet a cloth for her face and watched the fetal heart rate drop lower and lower. We helped her change position at every deceleration. She cried out with every turn.

Happy Birthday Read More »

Scroll to Top