Month: February 2017

Afflicted

Kristin Laurel

It is the night shift, and most of Minneapolis does not know
that tonight a drunk man rolled onto the broken ice
and fell through the Mississippi.
He lies sheltered and warm in the morgue, unidentified.

Behind a dumpster by the Metrodome
a mother blows smoke up to the stars;
she flicks sparks with a lighter
and inside her pipe, a rock of crack glows

before it crumbles into ash
and is taken by the wind.

mimiandgrace hwang

Comfort

 Esther Hwang

About the artist: 

Esther Hwang is a second-year medical student at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I take occasional photos when the beauty of life captures my heart. I spend most of my days studying and learning more about being a physician. I am interested in pursuing family medicine and obstetrics. On the weekends, I enjoy spending time with my husband and family, as well as baking cookies and exploring Athens, Ohio.” 

About the artwork:

“This photo captures my niece Grace comforting her grandma (“Mimi”), my mother, just prior to surgery. Two-year-old Grace sensed the tension in the room. She reached and grasped her Mimi’s hands, as if to say that it was all going to be okay. And five hours later, Grace was proved right. In my mother’s words: ‘Before my brain surgery, my thoughts were pretty extreme. I wasn’t even sure if I would make it through. But I was so glad to see all my family. Grace did …

Comfort Read More »

An American Story

Sara H. Rahman

“Mr. Douglas?” I call out into the waiting room. A short, grey-haired man in his sixties staggers towards me, bracing his back with his hands. Despite his pain, he gives me a warm smile, which I return.

As I help him onto the exam-room table, he winces, squeezing my hand.

“I’m a medical student,” I begin. “If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to examine you before Dr. Smith sees you.”

He nods. “Go ahead, you can learn on me–just don’t break my leg!”

The Financial Assessment

 

My Nicaraguan pediatrician friend astutely summarized her work: First you make the clinical assessment, then you make the financial assessment. In other words, a clinician may know the right treatment, but what good does that do the patient if the treatment is entirely out of reach financially?

 

In the clinic where I work, we don’t take insurance. It’s not a concierge practice but a church-based one, run on grants and hardscrabble for decades. For a provider, there’s something freeing about not having to consider insurance. There’s no frantic search through formularies, no restrictive list of specialists, none of the prior authorizations that suck up time and stamina–all things that have nothing to do with patient care but must happen in the insurance world. None of that.

Complainer

Christina Phillips

The patient, age forty-nine, complained of abdominal pain. She was taking both slow- and fast-acting oxycodone to manage the pain, and she also took antidepressants and a sleeping aid. She’d come to the hospital several times in the past year, always with the same complaint. This time, not feeling well enough to drive, she’d come by taxi. The veins in her arms were small, threadlike and collapsed, like those of a ninety-year-old or a recreational drug user.

Her medical file was huge, with reports from her primary-care physician, from local hospitals and from the gastroenterology department of a highly regarded teaching hospital across the state.

Heart Illustration Rooprai

Heart

Paul Rooprai

About the artist: 

Paul Rooprai is a fourth-year undergraduate student in the Health Sciences program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. His is interested in studying the healthcare system and in creating medical illustrations. HIs love for digital media and drawing led him to learn how to use Photoshop to create biomedical graphics. “Using a graphics tablet connected to my laptop, I worked off of an actual heart specimen found in the anatomy lab of the McMaster School of Medicine.”

About the artwork:

“This heart was one of two I made that felt personally meaningful to me. I created them because of a woman I met in one of my volunteer placements. She was a mother who, in her mid-thirties, had had a stroke and a heart attack that left her disabled and wheelchair-bound. She owns a special place in my heart because of her stories and her enthusiasm for life.”

Heart Read More »

Ben Franklin and Health Insurance

 
Everyone looks confused when I begin my class lecture on private health insurance by showing a picture of Ben Franklin on the hundred-dollar bill and dedicating the lecture to him. Students seeking nurse practitioner degrees and doctor of nursing practice degrees alike have no idea why one of our Founding Fathers deserves this honor.

Chemo Brain

Anne Webster

Since a doctor gave me poison pills that left
my heart a swollen slug, killed off my bone marrow,
set my lungs to clamoring, I can get brain-freeze
without eating a snow cone. When I walk
my neighborhood’s knotted streets, lost drivers
stop to ask directions. After thirty years, I know
the pretzel-turns, but when they motor off, I wonder,
Did I say left when I meant right? My husband
gets that look when words change lanes
without bothering to signal. Like soap bubbles
they pop from my mouth–“bird” for “tree,” “cat” for “dog.”

Benefits and Burdens

When I retired from teaching in a suburban school district north of Detroit in June 2003, I left Michigan for my hometown of Pittsburgh with boxes of belongings, twenty-nine years of memories, and health insurance tied to my state pension. That insurance has served me well–except when it has not.

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