Month: June 2018

Spend Your Life Learning How to Live

 
I met George Sheehan, a noted cardiologist as well as a legendary runner and writer about running, in August of 1986. I had been designated to pick him up at the airport in Aspen, Colorado, late the night before he was to speak at a conference that I was managing. We hit it off immediately.

 
That first meeting, I learned several months later, happened to fall only a few days after he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

 

My Father’s Prostate

 
As a newly graduated, idealistic physician assistant in 1991, I enthusiastically took to heart all recommendations for health promotion and disease prevention screening. The PSA test was encouraged for all men at that time, and when I found out my father had not been offered what I had been taught was a life-saving test, I beseeched him to have it done. He did and it turned out his PSA was elevated, initiating a medical journey that I am still processing over twenty years later.

 

Discovering Dependence

 
I am an independent woman, used to taking care of myself and others. But that self-image was dashed five years ago, when I fell and shattered my elbow.

I tried to gather my dropped purse and Chinese takeout but didn’t realize I couldn’t even gather my body until a stranger knelt beside me and said, “Let me stabilize your arm.The ambulance is on the way.”

Tears of Fear

After a four-day bout of intense, immobilizing, lumbar back pain, associated with a fever of 103.4, my wife and I decided that going to the ER was indicated. Within a very few hours, I was in the ICU with a presumptive diagnosis of Staph septicemia (infection) and pneumonia. Faced with my falling oxygen saturation, the intensivist recommended intubation and thus, for the next five days, I was in an induced coma while he and the infectious disease physician battled to save my life.

What If the “N of One” Is Me?

I am a 54-year old academic, family doctor. Last May, after the US Preventive Services Task Force issued a draft recommendation that physicians talk with patients about PSA (prostate-specific antigen) testing at age 55, I was updating my clerkship presentation about preventive screening. At the time, I was experiencing some palpitations (sensations of an abnormal heart beat), so I decided to check my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) and CBC (complete blood count).  

Not having checked my PSA since age 48 (it was 0.9 then), I decided, on a whim, to add a PSA to my blood tests. It came back 10.8, which means there was a possibility of cancer.

Water

Amulya Iyer ~

The professors,
they teach us
the types of diuretics,
their effects on the tubules–
convoluted or not.
They tell us to check
for pitting edema,
and grade it to see
how bad it has gotten.

But who teaches
the student
to kneel by the woman,
her legs swollen,
her heart failing in her chest–
to slip off old shoes,
roll down damp socks,
and touch her feet
as if asking
to be blessed?

On Call

On Call

Cheri Geckler 

About the artist:

Cheri Geckler is a neuropsychologist who has worked as a clinician in academic medical centers, primarily in Boston, for the duration of her professional career.

About the artwork:

“This assemblage of dated medical gear was found discarded in a storage closet. Its age and unspoken history elicited a strong heartfelt response from me.”

Visuals editor:

Sara Kohrt

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