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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Telehealth from the Driveway

My computer chimed a familiar DING, and my patient’s face flashed up on the screen. They were seated in their car, parked in the driveway of their grandchildren’s home, before they went inside for a visit. My patient eagerly declared, “Today is the day!” A broad smile graced their face. “I’m ready,” they said.

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Oh, Susanna

Susanna came into the U.S. fighting the mosquito-borne viral disease chikungunya. Her thin body, wracked with fever, shivered and fought off the infection; her family back in her home country called around for a PCP who would see her. They found me and scheduled an appointment. I knew the signs and symptoms of chikungunya, and I knew the hard mass I felt in her belly was something else.

She was diagnosed with cancer two days later and started chemotherapy as soon as she recovered from her infection.

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The Scabs We Have

In September, I was called back for dermatological surgery after a biopsy on my left calf revealed a severely dysplastic nevus—a result of the hours I spent tanning in the 1990s.

I canceled my morning clinic while I had the procedure. The surgeon took what she needed and stitched me up. The medical assistant put on a bandage and told me to keep the leg elevated for 12 hours.

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Perception of Pain

It starts as a dull sensation just below my rib cage, as if someone is trying to blow up a balloon inside me. Despite the expanding discomfort, I try to focus on my breathing. Without the ability to fully exhale, it’s difficult to calm my nervous system and avoid the dark places my thoughts are taking me: It’s an abdominal aortic aneurysm, gallstone pancreatitis, a perforated ulcer!

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My Reprieve

The year 2020 was epic for me—not because of COVID-19, but because my health was being challenged big-time. I’d had a mastectomy in 2017, and a CT scan had revealed a tiny spot on my right lung; my surgeon ordered annual scans to track it—and two and a half years later it had doubled in size. Coincidentally, my gynecologist had been following what she’d diagnosed as fibroids; we talked about a hysterectomy, but it wasn’t urgent.

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Finding Hope in Theater

I tend to be a “cup is half-empty” person. The current situation in the world has deepened my darkness. At night, I hear the traffic from the main street outside my window. I imagine the sound of bombs heightening the noise, and I pull the quilt over my head. My heart aches for all the children, no matter their background, who are suffering—personal injury, loss of relatives, the trauma of separation and the unknown. With each passing day and each new “breaking news” announcement, my despair intensifies.

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December More Voices: A Ray of Hope

Dear Pulse readers,

It was December. I was three months into my first year of medical school, and I wasn’t feeling right. I’d been incredibly thirsty for the past few weeks and been peeing an awful lot.

When I finally decided to get myself checked out at the student health service, the news wasn’t good: I was told I had diabetes. Not just diabetes, but type 1 diabetes, the kind they used to call juvenile onset. My body had stopped making insulin, and I would need to start injecting it.

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