Month: February 2011

Losing My Vision

Sheila Solomon Klass

Sunday, September 26 of this past year began normally enough. I did what I do every day, first thing: I put on my glasses and tested my vision. I’m eighty-three years old, and although I’ve always been nearsighted and have lived with glaucoma for thirty years, I’ve developed a worse complaint: AMD, age-related macular degeneration, in my left eye. 

My ophthalmologist diagnosed the AMD after I told him that, when I was reading, the print seemed faded and straight lines looked bent. I learned that AMD eats away at the macula, the central part of the retina, gradually destroying your ability to read, to watch television, even to recognize familiar faces. Today my left eye sees shapes and colors but no details; it cannot read print. 

At that visit, I also learned that AMD comes in two varieties: wet and dry. Dry AMD destroys the tiny blood vessels beneath the macula, blurring the vision; wet AMD forms new abnormal blood vessels, which leak fluid and damage the vision more severely. 

I had the dry kind, considered better because it doesn’t spread from one eye to the other. But, warned my ophthalmologist, it could treacherously turn wet at …

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The House Always Wins

Rashmi Kaura

Death. A five-letter word. The inevitable conclusion to our accomplishments, dreams, emotions and essence. Feared and ignored by the well, acknowledged and perhaps even welcomed by the ailing.

As physicians we are constantly gambling against this inevitability, playing the odds with our arsenal of diagnostics and therapeutics. Even when the odds against us grow longer, we forge ahead, bidding to prolong life through technology and wonder drugs.

Many times, staring into the tired, tortured eyes of a frail and debilitated patient while preparing to subject him or her to painful tests and treatments with a stroke of my pen, I wonder, Why do I insist on playing this game when the house is likely to win? Isn’t the whole point of gambling knowing when to quit, knowing how to cut your losses?

These questions came to mind when, as a medical resident, I took over the care of Jane Barnstable, a 61-year-old woman with terminal leukemia, admitted to the hospital because of general weakness and low blood pressure, and transferred to the ICU on account of worsening metabolic abnormalities.

When I first met Jane, I was struck by her vibrant, put-together look–her short, well-groomed hair, her smiling countenance touched …

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He Plummeted

Nina Bennett

He plummeted

into madness
as if into a run
for the Olympic bobsled team,
careened, thrashed,

crashed

into the rails
of his hospital bed,
whispered
about hidden
microphones, a plot
between his doctor and Visa
to keep the cure
for AIDS secret.

Eyes darted
from window
todoor
as he yanked
out
his IV line,
bellowed
about truth serum,
he won’t tell,
we can’t make him
tell.

He had been a nurse, took care
of his lover and too many
friends. Nobody left now
to care for him. He died
alone

in a nursing home
while his support group met
without him, while they
held hands to end the meeting
with a prayer.

About the poet:

Nina Bennett, author of Forgotten Tears: A Grandmother’s Journey Through Grief, is a psychologist who has worked in the HIV field since the beginning of the epidemic. She has a subspecialty in bereavement issues, with a focus on perinatal loss. Her poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Yale Journal for Humanities in MedicineAlehouseOranges & SardinesPhiladelphia StoriesThe Broadkill ReviewGrief Digest Magazine and the anthology Mourning Sickness.

About the poem:

“For many years I facilitated a support …

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Shujinwa Byoki Des

Lucy Moore

I don’t speak Japanese, but I can say “Shujinwa byoki des” (my husband is sick). 

After spending a month in Bali studying art, sweating profusely and slapping mosquitoes, we were heading home to New Mexico, with a stop in Hiroshima on the way. Our first morning there, my husband, Roberto, woke with a fever of 103 and a full body rash. 

The hotel had a thermometer, but no doctor. As Roberto’s fever neared 104, we hailed a cab for Hiroshima City Hospital. (That was when I pieced together shujinwa byoki des from my pocket dictionary.)

In the large, orderly waiting room, we were the only Caucasians. Roberto was a sight–lobster-red and wild-eyed. Staff and patients politely averted their eyes. 

A nurse led us to the lab for blood work, and after filling several tubes, she withdrew the needle and pressed a gauze pad onto the site. She bent Roberto’s arm to stop the bleeding, but when he opened it up, the gauze pad, red and soggy, fell onto the floor, and a little fountain of blood squirted from his arm. 

I laughed. To me it was comical, but one look at the nurse’s face told me otherwise. Her eyes widened, …

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