Month: April 2017

The Home

Nolan Snider

People say it’s the last place
They want to go.
But when push comes to shove,
It’s the next-to-the-last place.
Although there are some who are
Ready to move on to that last place.
Others stay as long as they can in this,
The last place they thought
They would ever want to go.
Clinging on, year after year,
Staying here to avoid
The last place.

Incidental Finding

Deborah Pierce

“You need to give me the name of a different specialist,” Ashley asserted.

For several years, Ashley, age twenty-nine, has been my patient at the residency practice where I work as a family doctor. Our relationship is not entirely comfortable; after visits, she frequently seems dissatisfied, yet she refuses to see anyone else.

Ashley’s body is a source of distress to her, often developing various pains and discomforts that fade away without explanation. In search of relief, she asks for many tests, but often, when I recommend a treatment, she refuses it or has difficulty tolerating its effects. When we talk, she’s usually very guarded about any aspects of her life besides those directly related to her symptoms.

I often feel ambivalent about ordering tests for Ashley, because all tests carry risks. Mostly, the risks are small. But one big and worrisome risk is the possibility of an incidental finding–something unusual that requires further testing and that would have posed no problem had it gone undiscovered.

Resilience1 Mahan 042117

Resilience

Cathleen Mahan

About the artist: 

Cathleen Mahan is a contemporary visual artist and a former critical-care nurse. She maintains an active studio practice in Portland, Maine. “Putting pencil to paper or hands to clay is, for me, a doorway into a nonverbal world outside of time that offers deep healing and balance. It is also where I feel most alive.”

About the artwork:

“Brought to tears by the change-of-shift report describing the circumstance of this young boy’s traumatic injuries, I struggled to enter his ICU room. He, on the other hand, was busy trying to find out if the EKG tracing would still register if he moved an electrode to his head. It did.”

Visuals editor:

Justin Sanders

The First Time

 
Walking with my mother through a recent time of ill health was unlike the countless times I had supported individuals and families through their own times of grief and loss. As a spiritual health practitioner (aka hospital chaplain) at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital, on an island near Vancouver, I found the setting and the situation very familiar. But the emotions were anything but.

The Janitor

 
Outside the OR, at a dictation desk in the cold, quiet hallway, I sat alone. I stared at the black-and-white floor tiles, my eyes tricking me into seeing diamonds, then squares, then diamonds. As if my chest were squeezed in a vise-grip, I could barely take a breath. My body was frozen in place, held stiffly upright by the hard chairback, the only thing keeping me from collapsing inward.

Unmasked

Carly Bergey

It’s called a missed miscarriage: You arrive, as I did, at the doctor for your first-ever pregnancy appointment, suffering from morning sickness and filled with joyful anticipation–only to learn that your body has not yet registered the death of your small embryo. Despite all of my doctor’s tinkering and double-checking, the ultrasound screen showed no movement. There was just the outline of a baby in me, quiet and still.

Hoping for a natural miscarriage, I told my coworkers what had happened, but asked that we not discuss it at work.

Day after day, I went to the Denver office where I worked as a speech pathologist, carrying my baby deep inside me, like a single stitch woven within fold after fold of tissue and blood.

I was asking my body to let the baby go. My body refused. So the waiting continued.

What’s Wrong, Dad ?

 
When I walked into my father’s hospital room, he began to sob. I didn’t cope well with his tears. I experienced them as a reaction to his seeing me and started to beat myself up, to think to myself, What have I done?

A voice at the back of my mind said, This is his illness–you can’t take it personally. But even so, I felt hurt by his crying.

Tears of Friendship

 
As an aspiring physician, I recognize that I’ll likely be encountering death a great deal in my professional life, since it’s impossible to save everyone. So it’s probable that somewhere down the line, I’ll cross paths with a patient who is a part of my life for only a short time. Is it appropriate to mourn such a loss? Was I important enough to them that they would want me to grieve?
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