December 2017

A Different Kind of Holiday

Ever since I was hit hard with myalgic encephalopathy/chronic fatique syndrome, the illness so eloquently portrayed by Jen Brea in the film Unrest, the holidays have been very different for me. Gone are the holiday gatherings, the caroling with friends and neighbors, the concerts. My body is too weak to attend any of these festivities, and the sound makes me dizzy within a very short time. I’ve been mostly housebound these 27 years.

Not Sharing

I’m not going to share the whole story. That period of time was awkward and painful and private. Health scares and hospital stays seem more personal when they happen over the holidays. There’s something a little more permanent about them in the collective family memory. We’ll never forget that Christmas in the hospital.

Birthday Boy

Joe Andrie ~

It’s another day for me as an intern on the labor-and-delivery floor of my large urban hospital–another day scrambling to help pregnant women deliver and trying to keep pace with the unpredictable timetable of the birthing process.

My hospital phone rings. I’m really starting to dread that sound.

It’s the triage nurse. We’re admitting a patient: Mrs. Harris, age thirty-four, who’s had several prior deliveries and therefore carries the label “multiparous,” or just “multip.”

Flipping through her records, I see “G5P4” noted. “G” means the number of pregnancies; “P” indicates how many children she has.

A mother of four who’s at term and having contractions…I’ve seen such women give birth within a matter of minutes. In plain language, Mrs. Harris’s chart means “HURRY!”



Lisa Gussak

About the artist:

Lisa Gussak is a primary-care doctor who has been practicing for nearly twenty years. Over the past few years, she has become increasingly interested in photography. She is drawn to the natural world, where she finds patterns and colors, and is particularly interested in contextual shifts and size distortions.

About the artwork:

“Patients often speak about their feelings of invasion, either by an illness or by a feeling, and fearing the loss of control. With my macro lens, I took this image of a small patch of moss and heard my patients’ voices in my head.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

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