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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Sharing personal experiences of giving and receiving health care

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 in the background. I knew from her obstetric records that she had five besides this newborn.

“Any questions?” I asked.

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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 years to work this out? I kept asking myself.

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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.

Gratitude
Gratitude

November 2021

Photo Credit: Sara Kohrt
Code Red: Our Changing Climate

October 2021

Photo Credit: Sara Kohrt
Unvaccinated

September 2021

New Voices

Stories by those whose faces and perspectives are underrepresented in media and in the health professions.

One Person at a Time

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

By medical-student standards, I’m old.

While it’s increasingly common for applicants to take one, two or even three gap years between college and medical school (usually to do research or engage in an activity to be featured in their application), taking ten years off, as I did, is unusual. I fondly refer to this hiatus as my “gap decade.”

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Small but Mighty

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

I was born with what was described as a “mild” case of achondroplasia, a genetic condition that affects bone growth and causes short stature.

The average height of an adult female with achondroplasia is 4 feet 1 inch; I am 4 feet 5 inches tall. I do not have some of the “characteristic” facial features such as a prominent forehead or flattened nasal bridge. The average person remains unaware of my condition until I stand up.

This condition does not run in my family.

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When Is the Right Time?

Stephanie passed away this morning.

In an email from her husband, Frank, I learned that I’d lost my dear friend of two decades.

Stephanie was only forty-two. An administrator at a local bank, she was also a devoted wife and the loving mother of three daughters.

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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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Harvest

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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