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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Discovering Dependence

I am an independent woman, used to taking care of myself and others. But that self-image was dashed five years ago, when I fell and shattered my elbow.

I tried to gather my dropped purse and Chinese takeout but didn’t realize I couldn’t even gather my body until a stranger knelt beside me and said, “Let me stabilize your arm.The ambulance is on the way.”

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Universal Act of Emotion

 
Throughout most of my life, I regarded crying as a sign of weakness. Just as men often don’t like to cry, I saw crying as a symbol of sensitivity and fragility. Whenever I found myself needing a good cry, I would lock myself in my room and let it all out–let out the pain, let out the suffering, let out the anger. I would cry so much that it felt as if a gallon of water was pouring out of me, as if weight was physically being lifted off of my shoulders. I thought that the only reason I

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Interpreter of Cries

 
It happens daily. I enter a room and come face to face with someone who’s afraid of me. But we make friends, we may even laugh and share a high five or two. Then I leave. And from the room next door, I can hear the horrendous cry. The aftermath. 

I’m a pediatrician, and the aftermath is when my capable medical assistant or nurse goes in after me to give a vaccine or check a hemoglobin level or administer a shot of antibiotics because the oral antibiotic isn’t working.

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The First

 
I have wanted to work in geriatrics, specifically with people with dementia, since I was in high school. Over the past year, I have been able to volunteer with a program called Opening Minds Through Art (OMA). I have worked at the same site as both a volunteer and a leader and therefore have gotten to know many elders on a personal level.

A woman I volunteered with and hold most dear had a twin sister. Recently, during one of our sessions, I found out that her sister was headed for hospice; the next day, she began the

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Letting the Tears Fall

 
In terms of size, I am a big man. But when I visited my dad in the hospital recently, I felt a “little boy” inside of me, resisting something I wasn’t ready for.

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Comfort Care

 
When a year ago he arrived at the clinic, he was a hard-working man with neck pain, there with his expectant wife and their adoring toddler. No one had anticipated a tumor.
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The Janitor

 
Outside the OR, at a dictation desk in the cold, quiet hallway, I sat alone. I stared at the black-and-white floor tiles, my eyes tricking me into seeing diamonds, then squares, then diamonds. As if my chest were squeezed in a vise-grip, I could barely take a breath. My body was frozen in place, held stiffly upright by the hard chairback, the only thing keeping me from collapsing inward.
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What’s Wrong, Dad ?

 
When I walked into my father’s hospital room, he began to sob. I didn’t cope well with his tears. I experienced them as a reaction to his seeing me and started to beat myself up, to think to myself, What have I done?

A voice at the back of my mind said, This is his illness–you can’t take it personally. But even so, I felt hurt by his crying.

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Tears of Friendship

 
As an aspiring physician, I recognize that I’ll likely be encountering death a great deal in my professional life, since it’s impossible to save everyone. So it’s probable that somewhere down the line, I’ll cross paths with a patient who is a part of my life for only a short time. Is it appropriate to mourn such a loss? Was I important enough to them that they would want me to grieve?
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Final Breaths

 
I remember my first code.
 
I was a senior in college, shadowing in the ER on a cold, Sunday night. Decembers in Providence can be brutal.
 
It was 11:30 p.m., and a voice came on the PA, urgency in her voice: “Code Blue, Code Blue.” The physician asked me if I had ever seen one before, and when I shook my head, he directed me to Critical Care Room C.
 
Behind a glass wall, I stood in silence, waiting. All the nurses and interns seemed on edge, ready to spring into action. I breathed in and

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My First Code

The radio call comes in: “thirty-something male, cardiac arrest, compressions in progress, five minutes out.”

My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited. 

I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.

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Cry for a Stranger

I cried for a stranger today.

Her sister sat expressionless next to her lifeless body, and when I walked into the room, she began crying.

My tears swell. I tell her how sorry I am, and how brave she was. She tells me that her sister died “so quickly and peacefully” and that “it was her time to go.” I am grateful she surrendered to the inevitable.

I leave to complete my documentation. Conflicted, I fight tears. I want to cry for her loss and for my loss. But, I am new here. I must make

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