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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March 2020

Not What I Expected

Not What I Expected

As I struggled my way through nursing school, I never expected my first job as a nurse to feel like this; I was too busy dreaming of the day when I could hold the title of Registered Nurse.

I never expected to come home crying. I never expected that, at times, I’d mumble the words “I hate my job.” I never expected many of the challenges I face daily–but here I am, six weeks into my first hospital job, fighting to make it. Here I am, figuring out what it means to be a nurse, learning what to expect.

It is early afternoon, and I have just finished administering my last midday medication. I emerge from the patient’s room to find that five call bells are buzzing; there is no other nurse or aide in sight. I begin to wonder if everyone is purposely disappearing in order to test the new kid.

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Put to the Test

Put to the Test

I’m a primary-care doctor in Washington state. I was recently confronted with a ticklish and painful situation.
Here are the facts and the sequence of events:
On a recent Wednesday morning, I saw a forty-five-year-old woman in my office for an earache. She told me that a member of her church had been diagnosed with coronavirus, and that many schools in the area were being closed because of possible exposure. Later that day I started to receive emails and phone calls from families in my practice, giving more information about this situation.

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A Bad Dream

Last night I dreamt that New York City was gone–that it had disappeared into a billowy horizon. I was walking on some unknown highway and looked over my shoulder and saw nothing but grey-white layers of clouds. No blue sky. No brown earth. No Big Apple. A real nightmare.

I woke to huge snowflakes dropping from the sky. My family is safe. But I am sad and scared. I can taste the fear, and I don’t like it. 

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Corona, Contagion, Confusion

Corona, Contagion, Confusion

My husband Joel, age seventy-six, has tested positive for the virus–the new big C.
Joel developed a low-grade fever on March 1. We were in San Francisco, visiting our ten-month-old grandson and his parents. They’d all had bad colds, and our grandson was still coughing and producing large amounts of sticky nasal stuff, so I wasn’t surprised when Joel got sick. (I figured that I eventually would, too.)
We went to a local urgent-care clinic. A competent physician assistant examined Joel, then assured us that he didn’t have the coronavirus: His vital signs were all good, and except for a 100.5° fever, he had no symptoms.

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A Poem a Day for Good Health

On Leap Day this year, I was at the beautiful Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Michigan. In the gift shop, I saw a booklet of 30 postcards featuring photos of the park–nature scenes, sculptures, the Japanese Garden, etc. It gave me an idea for a writing project during the month of March. I bought the booklet and every day this month I am writing a short poem reflective of the photograph on the postcard, working my way through the booklet. I then choose a stamp that fits the scene and put the postcard in the mail to myself.

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The Pandemic – A Medical Student’s Perspective

My mom wants to hear my opinion on public transportation. Can she take the subway to see her dentist this week, or should she take a cab? I say to her, “Take a cab if you can afford it, and if you take the subway try getting on a less crowded car. Practice social distancing, if possible.”
Mom asks me because I’m her medical student in the family. The truth is, I don’t have any more information to offer than what’s already found on the CDC’s website. I don’t have much to add, really, unless…

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I first heard about COVID-19 in January. My husband, a fellow physician, read to me about it from a news article. On the third day in a row as he read aloud about the epidemic, I asked him to stop. It was hard to appreciate his daily updates when all I wanted to do was throw up due to the severe morning sickness I was experiencing in my first trimester of pregnancy. After all, it was just in China, right? Too far away to worry about.

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Social Distancing To and From China

On recent flights to and from China, I had two different experiences of isolation and contagion.

Flying over, I was upgraded to business class. Cocooned in our own little fully reclining enclaves, my isolated, entitled fellow travelers and I interacted only with the attendants solicitously serving us. It was self-indulgently pleasant, and with the help of melatonin and a hearty meal, I got seven hours of sleep and arrived feeling like the world should continue to cater to me.

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