In a few years, we were financially back on our feet. But, much to the horror of friends and family, my mother insisted that we remain in the Poughkeepsie schools. About 70 percent of the children in the district were African-American. She rightly saw the rampant de facto segregation and, due to a combination of her political idealism and plain stubbornness, kept us where we were. The fact that this was viewed as a radical act in my parents’ social circle speaks volumes about race in America.
My life and experiences have been defined by contrasts. I am a physician and a military officer. Yet, in my presence and out of ear shot, I have been called such names as Nigger, Oreo, Tutsoon and Spear Chucker.
I eavesdrop on the cells in your brain,
which are trying to bust out of a prison
surrounded by broken connections.
They make an almost inaudible hum
beneath mechanical whooshes and pings
surrounding your hospital bed. I listen
while sitting with your hand in mine,
not comforted by the confusion
of intensive care–I know your brain
is scheming, despite these machines
and my heartache, to escape. Its intention
is clear–get out while there is still time.
I was midway through my internal medicine internship when elderly Mrs. Armstrong was transferred to our service for treatment of a pulmonary embolus (aka PE–a blood clot in the lungs) after a knee fracture repair. I remember thinking, disparagingly, “Surgeons should be able to treat a PE!”
The following morning, our team rounded on our patients and hurriedly wrote orders and notes because Susan, my senior resident, and I would be in clinic all afternoon. As we worked, another resident, Greg, stopped by and invited us to a party that evening. “I hope I can come,” I said. “If I finish early enough.”
In the wake of recent events, many speak about the need for conversations about race. In our country, the implications of race are a moral issue, a humanitarian issue, a justice issue and, yes, a medical issue. (One need only examine how racial categorization affects rates of death.) But what would this conversation about race look like?
Today, Pulse’s editor provides one offering. In August, we’ll invite all Pulse readers to join in with their stories, when Race will be the theme of More Voices.
I grew up in Stuyvesant Town, a middle-class housing development just north of Fourteenth Street on the east side of Manhattan. Built after World War II, Stuyvesant Town was a leafy and desirable place to live. There was a long waiting list to get in, and priority was given to World War II veterans, like my father.
About the artist:
Henry Schneiderman is a palliative-care physician at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, CT, and a professor of both medicine and nursing. He has been drawing since age five and studied for a time at the Art Student’s League in New York. His beloved wife Ro died this winter, after thirty-eight years of a good marriage. “Counseling and a spousal-bereavement support group have been helpful; so have the spoken words of friends and family, and the written words of others. This sketch is an expression of quiet, howling grief.”
About the artwork:
“On our garden deck one cold spring day I was looking at the sprouting of seeds I had planted a couple of weeks before. They were seeds I had bought with my wife, Ro, in the autumn, when she was fatally ill. As with so many other material remnants of our time–love letters, food in the freezer, clothes she bought for …
Tired from the long drive, I thought back on my years of marriage. Back pain was the first problem, I think. Then GERD, then migraines, dizziness, TMJ, panic attacks, fibromyalgia. They were all tough, serious problems. But all together?
It’s October, and I’m a second-year medical student. My best friend Carly and I have just finished a backpacking trip through South America. We fly out tomorrow from Lima, Peru, and we have just one thing left to do: eat shrimp ceviche, the classic South American dish of raw seafood marinated in lime or lemon juice, oil and spices.
We wander along the busy streets until we find the restaurant our hostel’s desk clerk recommended. It’s a small, dingy joint that doesn’t look up to the current health code, but I don’t give that another thought once a giant bowl of amazing shrimp ceviche is placed in front of me.
It’s incredibly delicious, and we quickly demolish it.