June 2016

beach campbell 061016

Sea Dreams

Pris Campbell

About the artist: 

Pris Campbell has published free verse and short forms (haiku and tanka) in numerous journals over the years. She developed her love of graphic manipulation of images through creating haiga, haiku combined with an image. One of her graphics was used for the cover of Red-headed Stepchild, a poetry journal. A former clinical psychologist, sidlined by myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) since 1990, she makes her home in greater West Palm Beach, Florida.

About the artwork:

“The obvious joy these children show and the birds circling freely above them reflects how I felt when I’m near the ocean. I was a sailor before I got ME/CFS. The ocean gives me great joy in spite of my illness. I changed the colors to give the original photograph the feeling of a mystical dream, one that can remain with you, sea nearby or not, …

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A Lifeline of Yarn

During my internship in general surgery, I had few opportunities to go into the operating room, yet I was itching to put my hands to work. I heard around the hospital that a transplant surgeon I admired was a talented knitter. So I signed up for a basic knitting class at Michaels craft store, learned my knits and purls, and began constructing lopsided scarves using inexpensive, scratchy acrylic Red Heart yarn. I was quickly addicted to my new hobby.


I still remember the night I decided to become a nurse. My eight-year-old daughter had been admitted to the hospital following an emergency appendectomy, and I stayed overnight on the pediatric unit with her. A nurse named Suzanne came on at 11:00. She had short blond hair, a pink jacket and an air of matter-of-fact confidence. I can’t picture her face any more, but I can still see her hands–checking my daughter’s dressing, using a pillow to prop her on her side, smoothing the blanket over her shoulders.


My mother’s scent, Replique, always entered my bedroom an instant before she did. The message my nose carried to my brain, then on to my heart, was “She’s going out tonight.” 
She would first sit on the edge of my mattress. The comfort of her nearness would always be overshadowed by the sadness that I knew would overtake me once she left me alone. But we both pretended it didn’t matter. She’d say all the requisite things like “Sleep tight” and “See you in the morning” and “I love you.” And then she would kiss my hand and be gone–leaving behind a waxy, deep-red imprint of her lips, pressed onto my skin. 

Stubborn Thumbs

My maternal grandmother was a psychic medium. She read cards professionally and taught me card-reading when I was child. As a teen, wanting an intuitive skill no one else in the family possessed, I went to the library, checked out books on palm reading and studied them.
Throughout my working life, I kept this hobby to myself. Yet I used it both consciously and subconsciously; I believe nurses possess a clairvoyance born of compassion and the will to heal. We earn this through study and years of practice. Yet it is also a gift of heart and mind.

The Abdominal Exam

“Your fingers are your eyes to see beneath the skin,” my stepfather says to me. “When you examine your patients, close your eyes and imagine what is beneath the surface.”

He and I–an experienced physician and a nascent medical student, respectively–are sitting on our living-room couch next to a twenty-year-old neighbor who’s asked for advice, after explaining that he’s had a sore throat, fever, and fatigue for the past two weeks.

Letter to My Patient

Dear Ms. S,

I’m honored to have known you, I’m glad I had a chance to hold your hand before your surgery, and I will forever remember you as my first patient who passed away.

Within the first few seconds of meeting you, I knew you were a sweet person and had a wonderful, giving soul. I hope you are at peace where you are now. I hope you are no longer suffering.


Ronna Edelstein

When my friend Madeline turned seventy, she celebrated in a big way: She walked a half-marathon; she hosted a cabaret for family and friends at which she sang and told stories; she traveled to China. Now, six years later, this dynamic woman has become a virtual prisoner in her apartment. She has undergone back surgery, suffered a nearly fatal intestinal infection and, after a fall, had bolts and screws placed in her hip. Her voice, which once broadcast her energy and joie de vivre, has dwindled to a whisper.

The thread that links all of these bodily assaults is pain. Chronic, intense pain has drained away my friend’s energy and quality of life. No doctor has definitively diagnosed the source of her pain–or been able to find an antidote.

I feel a special sympathy for Madeline because, like her, I live a life in which pain plays a constant role.

Clapping Hands

“May I present to you the graduating class of meds…”
The uproarious burst of applause that always follows this statement is a wonderful sound–one that I’ve heard echoing through nine years now of medical graduation ceremonies. It’s the sound of the clapping hands of proud parents, exultant students, happy faculty and supportive staff who are all so glad to see this moment come.

Blessing Hands

During Hospital Week each year, the staff of our Chaplaincy Department go all over the hospital to bless the hands of caregivers. It is a simple ritual to validate the sacred work of caring for others. With anyone who feels comfortable participating, we chaplains take a little lotion, place it on the staff member’s hands, and, while clasping their hands, say, [Name], I bless these hands of yours, which labor in the care and healing of others in the name of the one who brings healing to us all. Amen.” 
Here are some of the things I’ve heard in the course of a twenty-four–hour period as I blessed the hands of everyday caregivers, holding their hands and looking them in the eyes:
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