Month: December 2016

Jacobs Galapagos


Zachary G. Jacobs

About the artist: 

Zachary G. Jacobs is a third-year internal-medicine resident at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and a member of the Global Health and Underserved Populations track. His professional interests include global health, medical education and narrative medicine. He believes that the world has a story to tell and attempts to capture that story via art, photography, narrative and poetry.

About the artwork:

“I took this photograph in the Galápagos Islands, where I traveled after spending one month volunteering in local hospitals and clinics in the Napo region of Ecuador. Of the many things I learned during my time in South America, one thing that will stick with me is the resiliency and warmth of the people of that region. They shoulder unimaginable burdens, yet somehow carry on smiling. The tortoise pictured here reminds me of the patients I cared for–his rough and wizened skin suggests a life of hardship, but the upturned corners of his mouth betray a smile.”

Resilience Read More »

Hope Heals

Hope has been the key to happiness in my life. Lows happen; troubled times are inevitable. But when I can hope that what hurts will be healed and difficulties will be overcome, I can be happy. Hope is something we can hold onto in difficult times and know, trite though it sounds, that the dawn follows even the darkest nights. I have also learned that hope sometimes arrives in different and unexpected packages.

During my sophomore year of college, I hit my personal low. I was drowning in depression and anxiety. Simply making it through the day was a feat in itself. I lacked purpose, and I even questioned my will to live. Hope seemed just beyond my grasp.

The Playground

I stand squinting in the sun as the kids parade off the buses. Quickly, the campgrounds fill with smiling faces, colorful t-shirts and baseball caps. From afar, there seems to be no difference between this place and any other summer camp.

However, underneath many of the t-shirts are chemotherapy ports and surgical scars, below the hats are bald heads and behind the smiles are fears, memories and young lives impacted by cancer. Yet walking through the camp’s rainbow-adorned gates, I lead the children into a world of hope. A place without needles, hospital beds, pain or isolation, a place where they can be free. Free of IV poles, free of worries, free of the stares of strangers, free of the word “cancer.”

Leaving a Little Sparkle Everywhere I Go

“You have glitter on your face,” my grandmother reminded me for the tenth time that afternoon. Though she was relatively early in the Alzheimer’s process, to us it seemed that she was losing something every single day, and today it appeared to be her short term memory.

The Real Patient Encounter

In the simulation lab where we trained as medical students, all we had to do was grab a tissue and hand it to the patient. Then, like magic, they would thank us. As if that’s all it takes to suddenly make things better!

We also learned to say empathic things like “I know this tough,” “I’m here for you” and “What’s wrong?” And in the simulation lab they worked like magic, too.

But now I’m with a real patient, and I tried all these things, and they just didn’t cut it. She seems so disconnected and isolated.

Thanksgiving Dinner

Allie Gips

and for the third time my grandfather grabs the bottle of sparkling cider
and for the third time it is empty and for the third time his face falls
of all the things to forget this is not the saddest
he forgets how the trees are laid out in the woods behind his house,
forgets whether he took his pills in the morning, forgets to protect
my grandmother in the dark of the night
when he wakes to declare that the whole room stinks, it stinks so bad,
it stinks and he has to sleep elsewhere he tells my grandmother who clings
to him and begs stay with me, stay with me so i don’t grow cold

Music Fills the Soul

Over the years I had come to dread this weekly chore and today, as always, it filled me with such sadness. Tuesdays, on my day off from work, I would drive to the nursing home to visit my mother. There were times when Mom would look at me with her crystal clear blue eyes and say, “Do you know when Beth is coming?” “I AM Beth,” I would exclaim, over and over again when Mom asked me the same question until finally, one day I answered, “Beth is coming to see you soon.” Mom’s face lit up and she smiled.

As time passed, she didn’t ask for me at all.

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