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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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Her Call Was Tougher Than Mine

“Is he in pain?” Joshua’s mother asked, after I told her who I was. She had finally answered the phone after fifteen days of letting my calls go to voicemail.

“I don’t think so,” I answered. The truth was, at that point in my early career as a pediatric resident, I didn’t know whether he was in pain. “We’re giving him medicines to keep him comfortable.”

“Okay,” she said. I could hear young children laughing

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Next of Kin

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

The Early Nineties

A number of things happened the moment I realized I was gay. From the moment I came out to myself and to those around me, I felt the scales fall from my eyes. The sky was brighter, the air crisper. I felt free, excited by the world and all it had to offer.

How could it have taken forty-four

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The Dreams That Bring Us Here

It is a quiet Thursday evening in the fall of 2015 at the Dara Medical Center in Brooklyn, where I’m volunteering as a medical observer. The Center is almost empty. At the far end of the corridor, I see an elderly man wearing a black sweater and eyeglasses. His face is pale; his eyes and hands are creased and wrinkled.

“Where are you from?” he asks.

“I’m Palestinian,” I answer.

“Pakistan?” he replies incredulously.

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More Voices

Every month readers tell their stories — in 40 to 400 words — on a different healthcare theme.

How Can I Help?
Showing Vulnerability

Middle-aged Daughter

(after Susan Vespoli)

I like to think she stopped searching
for the next hobby, the next career,
the next diagnosis.

That she’s thriving at work and has given up
smoking. I like to think she completes
her interrupted orthodontics

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Often Described As

the most terrible pain known to man,
trigeminal neuralgia
ricochets around my face, pulsing
electric-shocks. My doctor advises

cutting the nerve in my cheek, the only hope
of stopping the torture. He mentions
some patients consider
suicide. My husband has just revealed

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In early morning appointments,
the doctor’s coat reeks of cigarettes
as he moves closer,
says “Scoot down,”
inserts the probe.

They want me to want my eggs
in case the treatment takes them—
to hold fast to the dream of a child
with my dimples and dark eyes.

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encounters 20sept geneva

Encounters: “I have been so blessed…”

I had my first baby when I was thirteen, and my mother died when I was thirteen. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but when my faith is not consistent, that’s when I start getting all those crazy thoughts, like “Oh, my life, my life…”

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Felipe's Story

Felipe’s Story: “I’m going to the U.S. I’m going to see who detained the clouds and how they detained them.”

“There was a time [in Mexico] that it didn’t rain and there wasn’t a lot to eat in the country. There were no crops. People started to say that the Americans stopped the clouds so it wouldn’t rain, because they are very powerful. I said, I’m going to meet these Americans — I’m going to go to the U.S. I’m going to see who detained the clouds and how they detained them. I was about 15.”

“[Hubo] un tiempo que no llovía y no había mucho que comer en el campo. No hubo cosechas. Empezaron a contar los señores que los Americanos detuvieron las nubes para que no lloviera porque son muy poderosos. Dije, voy a conocer los Estados Unidos. Voy a ver quienes son los que detienen las nubes, como las detienen. Tenía como 15 años.”

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Fatima's Story

Fatima’s Story: “I want them to be better than me. I’m here, stuck.”

“I tell [my children], you don’t have to do anything for me, just go to school and do what you have to do. On the weekend I take them to the mosque, because jeu can learn Arabic and all that. And I just want them to study. That’s all. That’s the main thing. If you want to be someone tomorrow, you have to work hard right now.

I want them to be better than me.

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