February 2019

The Patient I Didn’t Want

Krithika Kavanoor ~

When I first met Ms. Ruiz, I was barely three months into my first year as a family-medicine resident. I was working harder than I’d ever worked before, and continually facing new challenges. I knew that I was learning, and so I persevered, but opportunities for self-doubt were abundant.

Maybe that was why Ms. Ruiz made such a big impression on me.

A middle-aged woman with a small frame and short black hair, she’d been admitted to the hospital overnight for severe abdominal pain and jaundice. Resting quietly in her bed, she listened intently to my colleague’s presentation of her case, her sharp eyes fixed on his face. I too listened carefully, and gathered that she would be with us for some time for the CT scans, blood work and other tests needed to pinpoint the cause of her symptoms.

Letting Go


Ma was a feisty woman who juggled many tasks and got everything done to perfection. She boasted that her kitchen and bathroom floors were “clean enough to eat off of” and that no one could make a brisket as tender as hers. In addition to cleaning, cooking and doing other household jobs, Ma worked full-time at a local children’s store. Nothing ever slowed her down.


The old woman bends forward, rubbing life into her putrid socks to ease the black pain emanating from her gangrenous toes. All the while, she coughs, calling it “the other person inside of me.”
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