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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 2020

I Would Like to Call It Beauty

Gearing up for my night shift in the COVID-19 intensive-care unit, I don my personal protective equipment (PPE)–a white plastic air-purifying respirator (PAPR) hood. The hood connects via a tube to a large battery pack that I strap onto my waist over my scrubs. I turn on the battery and shiver when the rush of cool air blows past my ears. I walk into a bright white antechamber where a safety officer inspects me.

“You’re good to go,” she says. “Stay safe.”

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Pulse is moving


June 23, 2020

To our Pulse community,

For the next few days, Pulse will not be able to accept website submissions, comments or donations. This is so that Pulse can relocate to a beautiful new home on the Web.

By the end of the week, you should be able to make your submission, post a comment and make a donation on our brand new site.

At any time over this period, you can always reach us via email.

Thanks for your patience.

All of us at Pulse


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We Can No Longer Remain Silent

A patient walked in with her child, who was probably about four years old. I greeted the child, but he wanted nothing to do with me. He said, “I don’t like her. I don’t like that color!” I thought maybe I’d misunderstood him. Then he said, loud and clear, “I don’t like Black.” His mother, obviously embarrassed, told him that wasn’t a nice thing to say, and I had to carry on with the visit as if nothing had happened.

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I Am a White Woman

I am a White woman with privilege. My parents preached that all people are created equal, but we lived in White communities. Talk is easy. When I was in high school, my father was transferred and we moved. With many more Black persons in Virginia, Maryland, and D.C., my mother’s true views emerged. It was 1962, and as we drove places, her talk was a stream of stereotyping racism.

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Life With Father

Life With Father

After forty-three years as a nephrologist-internist and teacher, I recently retired from medicine. This final stage of life is a time of reflection. Was I a good physician? On a more fundamental level, was I a good friend, husband and father?
Despite its many challenges, I have never regretted following my cherished vocation. There were far more rewards than regrets. By contrast, my record as a father feels a bit less exemplary.
During my first three decades as a physician, the prevailing professional ethos could best be described as “macho medicine.” When I trained as a resident-fellow, and later, when I practiced full-time as a nephrologist-internist, my colleagues and I were routinely expected to work sixty or more hours per week.

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If harsh words fall, but no patient is around to hear them, do they make a sound?

This particular night on my trauma-surgery rotation as a fourth-year medical student, the question weighs heavily as a page alerts the team that a patient with multiple gunshot wounds will arrive in ten minutes.

Everyone’s kind of excited. Anxious, too. Jittery.

1:00 am. Down in the ED, the main actors stand masked, gowned and ready to go. ED Cowboy stands at the head of the bed, Surgery Senior stands to the side. Alongside them, the throngs of people without obvious purpose who always seem to show up just in time for the evening’s episode of “drama in the trauma bay.” Everyone’s done this a thousand times before. Well, maybe not everyone.

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Saying the D-Word

It was late in the evening, and I was ready to start my night shift as an intern in the intensive-care unit. I sought out my fellow intern, who was finishing his shift, so that we could perform signout–the ritual of passing the patients’ information from one clinician to the next.
“Mrs. Klein in Bed 15 might go,” he whispered.
“Go? Go where?” I asked. “It’s 10 o’clock at night.”
“I mean she might go away.” He wasn’t making eye contact with me.

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Some of the Hardest Weeks

Some of the Hardest Weeks

Editor’s Note: Since the end of March, Pulse has been carrying special edition pieces on the impact of the COVID-19 virus on patients, families and healthcare workers. In response to recent events, we bring you this special edition on Racism, which is also the theme of this month’s More Voices. In weeks to come, we hope to continue addressing both Racism and COVID in our special-edition series.

Today’s piece is by Ladi Oki, a physician colleague. This is not a typical Pulse narrative. It is true to Pulse’s mission, however, in that it explores the impact of events on an individual’s heart and mind.

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