Month: January 2016

A Second Farewell

Julie List

Two years ago, I’d just begun my new post as clinical supervisor at the caregiver-support center at a large medical institution. The center offers emotional and practical support to families of patients who are dealing with serious illnesses and hospitalizations.

In my short time there, I’d already encountered many memorable clients, but somehow I felt a special connection with one woman, Maria. A small, intense woman with piercing dark eyes, she often came to see us between her visits to her husband, Felipe, who lay gravely ill in the hospital’s cardiac intensive-care unit.

Always with Maria on her visits to Felipe were their three twentysomething daughters, Rosa, Alicia and Blanca. The family’s closeness touched me–especially when it became clear that Felipe’s health was going downhill.

Paper Crane

Sarah Nitoslawski

T-cell lymphoma in the brain
MRI flooded with glaring, white-hot streaks
Devouring cerebellum and frontal lobe

A scrawled note in his chart:
“difficult and disinhibited
Neurology–please re-assess”

At the sight of our starched white coats
He reaches shakily for the toothbrush on his meal tray
And begins to frantically scrub at his teeth
Wide dark eyes boring straight though us

He does not want us there.

Nightingale White

Nightingale

Joanna White

About the artist: 

Joanna White, a music professor, is grateful for medical humanities publications, such as Pulse, that allow critical dialogue. Her creative work has appeared in The Examined Life Journal, Ars MedicaThe Sow’s Ear Poetry Review and other venues.  

About the artwork:

“Once a child who could not talk about terrifying medical experiences, I only began to write poems and stories, and to paint about it, as an adult facing medical events. The nightingale, in legend the bird with the most beautiful voice, often symbolizes poetry, music and even, specifically, the flute, my instrument. I painted it and keep it near to remind me that I have a voice.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

Never Leaving Wonderland

Jacqueline Dooley

Three years ago I spent the entire month of September by my daughter’s side in her hospital room. From Ana’s window, we watched summer fade into fall as we waited, day after day, for her to be discharged, which finally happened in early October.

During her forty days in the hospital, Ana was diagnosed with an obscure, slow-growing cancer called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor. The tumor, roughly the size of a cantaloupe, engulfed her liver. Her oncologists formulated a plan of action involving chemotherapy, steroids and a Herculean attempt to save her liver so that she wouldn’t need a transplant.

Ana was eleven years old and about to start sixth grade when she was hospitalized. She loved singing, drawing and being with her friends. Her long brown hair was her pride and joy, hanging nearly to her waist. That was the year she wanted to be Katniss from The Hunger Games for Halloween and braid her hair just like the character, but she lost her hair a week before the holiday, so she had to wear a wig.

A Routine Transgender Visit

Nat Fondell

“Hey, Rick. They warned you about me, I hope?”

My routine med-student opening line elicits a slight smile from my balding forty-two-year-old patient and the patient’s wife. As we shake hands, I continue the script.

“I’m Nat–the medical student. What brings you in today?”

“Well, I’d like to transfer my care to this clinic. We’ve brought my medical records.”

Together, they heave stacks of papers onto the desk. Rick’s hands slide back into the pockets of well-worn work jeans.

“Can you tell me a bit about yourself?” Classic open-ended question.

“Well, I’ve been seeing specialists for years about my headaches. That explains most of the paperwork. High blood pressure and high cholesterol. Plus my family has a bunch of cancers.”

“And what pronouns do you prefer?” Here’s where the script deviates from the medical-school boilerplate.

Some Other Spring Lorenzen

Some Other Spring

Karl Lorenzen

About the artist: 

Karl Lorenzen is a professional artist who exhibits and teaches at leading holistic learning centers.  He is a faculty member of the New York Open Center and Anthroposophy NYC, and a teaching Artist in Residence at the Omega Institute, NY.  He has taught watercolor painting techniques in New York at the Queens Cancer Center / Queens Hospital Center, and Gilda’s Club NYC.  Karl’s work is eatured in HEAL Journal and The Healing Muse.  His art was included in exhibitions at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center inFUSION Gallery, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the United Nations Headquarters in New York City.

About the artwork:

“‘Some Other Spring’ (2015, graphite on paper, 9″ x 12″) is a jazz standard (immortalized by Billie Holiday) that addresses disappointment, hope, and renewal.  When my wife was undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, she was given anti-nausea medication.  Her loss of hair meant that curlers had to be put …

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Series: Patient Interviews

Alexandra Rosenberg

1. (PHQ-9: Screen for Depression)

“Depressed? Course I’m depressed.
My wife died ten years ago.
My son? Well…
He does the best he can for me.”

2. (DNR)

“What’s that you call it?
In-tube-ate?
No ma’am.
No way to die.
Just call my daughter,
give me some pills–
I’ll go easy.”

3. (Suicide Attempt)

“I’ve got two voices in my head
Chuck and Butch
Chuck’s not so bad, but Butch….
I like Chuck, I don’t want him to go away.
But things got bad,
My girlfriend left me.
My head was
a too-loud radio station
–can’t turn it off.
I took a bunch of pills
Bought a gun. I was going to do it.
But my mom got home early that day.
She took me here.

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