Allie Gips ~
In broken English, against the backdrop of the emergency department’s chaos and clatter, Mr. Simon relayed his story: unintentional weight loss, gradually yellowing skin, weeks of constipation. He punctuated his list of devastating symptoms with laughter–exaggerated but genuine guffaws.
Over the next few days, as the medical student responsible for his care, I was also responsible for handing him piece after piece of bad news. An obstructing gallstone in his bile duct. Actually, an obstructing mass. Likely a malignancy. Chemo. Radiation.
With each update, he would grin. And then he would laugh.
About the artist:
Renusha Indralingam is a graduate of Yale University, where she studied molecular biology and film. She loves to explore the intersection of storytelling, visuals and medicine, with a focus on the importance of narrative in a medical setting. She has worked and volunteered in hospices and hospitals in Florida, Connecticut and Alaska.
About the artwork:
a paper gown, an intravenous tube and silence greater than my symptoms
sterile sheets speak my fear & insecurity saying will you be there with me
come back after the anesthesia has broken up with me and hold me
could you love a cure that hasn’t found itself yet? will your grace go down
with me weeping and swinging because time is spilling its sand and I am
the ocean afraid to leave?
When the machine goes beep, beep–beep long note
and my body lets go of the hold on my soul
the physician notes the time of my go, will you sigh so I know
“One of these days, someone is going to straighten you out!”
Have you ever heard these words? Have they ever been said to you or someone you know? Never did I expect to experience them late in my life in a different way than their usual, figurative meaning. But thanks to the gifted hands of a spinal surgeon, my severe scoliosis was arrested and I was straightened out, literally, at age seventy-three no less.
During my third year of medical school, I completed a clinical rotation in surgery. I was certain that it would be horrible. I envisioned myself in the OR, getting lightheaded, passing out onto the sterile field and being yelled at by my attending physician. I worried that the medical knowledge I’d worked so hard to learn would be neglected in favor of memorizing the steps of surgical procedures. My parents, who are both physicians, warned that I’d just be holding retractors for hours.
I want to interact with my patients, I fretted, not just hover over them while they’re anesthetized.
Although I tried to keep an open mind, I knew that I was destined for a miserable time.
About the artist:
About the artwork:
I had been accepted to an accelerated graduate program in Health Communication and was considering deferring for a year. New responsibilities at work and figuring out what I wanted to do next with my life took priority.
But then, I found out that my friend, Liz, was sick.
I love my brother. He encourages and supports me and is everything that a big brother should be. But he is also something that no one should be: sick with no health insurance.
It’s Monday morning, and I’m the attending physician starting a week of inpatient service in the hospital. On my patient list is a man named Earl, age ninety-one. He’s outlived his siblings, his first and second wives and all of his peers. After seven decades of smoking, his lungs are failing; he carries a diagnosis that reads “severe emphysema.”
The sign-out note from Earl’s previous doctor reads, “Daughter and son-in-law met multiple times with the team last week.” As his medical decision-makers, they’ve been waffling about what to do for him. Last week they said, “Do everything,” then “Take a comfort approach,” only to wind up back with “Let’s get him strong enough for rehab.”
I’ve been putting off rounding on Earl: I’m afraid that these two will hijack rounds by changing their minds again.