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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February 2024

A Puzzling Impulse

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

My mother has always advised me that it is good to be “different.” She herself, growing up, wanted to be different in both her personality and her fashion. But her wish to be unique is not something I’ve inherited.

Beginning in elementary school, the last thing I wanted was to be different from my school friends—in fact, I wanted to be them. This made things difficult, as I was the only brown person in my primarily white friend group.

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A Time to Die?

I’ve always liked this hospital. It’s small, just two stories, with natural light flooding through the rain-cleansed windows.

My patient Ruby is on the ground-level medical ward. The ward’s Maori name, Muiriwai, means “confluent point of two streams.” Each ward has a Maori name and four beds. There are no private rooms in this public hospital.

Ruby is lucky to have a bed near the window.

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COVID in 2024

I still remember the days of peak pandemic when everyone was stocking up on masks, toilet paper and even hand sanitizer. Back then, all patients wore masks, physicians gowned up, and loved ones couldn’t see their family members in the hospital. So many things have changed, with more patients being vaccinated, visiting hours loosened, and rarely do I reach for an N95. Even if I do reach for N95s, I can throw them away after one use without worrying that the hospital will run out of supplies.

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Being Different: My Struggle and My Motivation

Editor’s Note: This piece was a finalist in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

When I was in elementary school, I was bullied by my peers into believing that being different was bad.

I grew up thinking that speaking my mind was undesirable if my thoughts didn’t mirror those of others. To my peers, liking the “strange” foods of my parents’ Haitian cuisine, such as tripe or oxtail, was weird. I wore my older brothers’ hand-me-downs, which led to incessant teasing at school.

Although I grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts—a mostly Black, Haitian and Cape Verdean town—much of this negativity came from kids who looked like me.

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The Greatest Health Care System in the World

One might reasonably assume that diabetes testing supplies could be simply obtained. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) eliminates fingersticks and enables more precise knowledge of sugar levels. Recently insurance denied coverage of CGM supplies for a patient I see. My patient’s blood sugars were higher than last year. My patient was upset about their elevated blood sugars AND their lack of glucose monitoring supplies. I pressed the pharmacy to learn the reason for the denial. Insurance would not cover CGM because the patient’s diabetes control had worsened, which indicated that the CGM did not help lower their blood sugars.

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My Invisible Illness

Growing up, I was a healthy child. I only went to the doctor for check-ups, vaccinations and school forms.

So when, at age fourteen, I woke in the middle of the night in excruciating pain and crawled into my parents’ bedroom to wake them to take me to the emergency room, I wasn’t prepared for what awaited on the other side of those sliding glass doors.

My experience was like a medical TV-show montage—bright lights, beeping monitors, medical professionals hovering over me and talking incomprehensible jargon, soft cries from patients in surrounding rooms, concerned looks on my parents’ faces.

My Invisible Illness Read More »

Assistant Head Wrapper

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

I’m an antique. I started working as a junior copywriter at Time in 1972. I was a token Jew, a token hippie and a token “female professional” among hordes of perky typists and preppy males. The executives wore Cartier cufflinks engraved with initials and numbers, like GSW III or CMJ IV. My bosses were George the Third and Christopher the Fourth, while I was J, the only.

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Brain Scan

I slide into the MRI machine.
Sleds slide downhill, propelled by their own weight;
my movement’s horizontal, made through means

outside of my control: a man in green
scrubs bops a button, turning me to freight
that’s fed into the MRI machine.

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