Month: July 2020

The Antidote in My Purse

Opening my purse to pull out my reading glasses, I notice the small white nasal-spray bottle still encased in its clear plastic packaging. I’ve been carrying it for a few months now. Do I feel reassured seeing it there?

As a physician, I wonder if the chance is greater that I’ll one day use this bottle to save someone’s life than it is that I’ll rescue someone with CPR or the Heimlich maneuver.

Learning to Speak Up

Jack’s schizophrenia prevented him from understanding the importance of taking antibiotics for a diabetic leg ulcer. As a student nurse, I was caring for him on the psychiatric unit where I worked.  Based on his olive skin, Jack may have been of Greek descent. Average height and weight, he had thinning black hair, beady eyes, and a hooked nose. Jack’s face remained expressionless, and he usually kept his head down, shoulders hunched.

He’d been found wandering the streets, years ago, so we didn’t know much about him. Jack rarely spoke, and I wondered if he’d suffered a trauma earlier in life.

Only Connect

It was 5:00 pm in the intensive-care unit, and my team and I had just wrapped up our interview with elderly Ms. Armijo, who was in critical condition after emergency abdominal surgery.

Exhausted after a long day, we headed for the door, the ICU machines and monitors beeping their goodbyes.

Like a Puzzle

I was a brand new pediatrician, the most junior faculty member in a medical college in India. The typical diagnoses were different from most that I’d seen in my residency, which meant that every case was like a puzzle. But I was enjoying the challenge, as it led to lots of interaction with faculty in other departments.

Hospital Near Dublin

I tiptoed into the slippery hallway of the hospital near Dublin where I’d stayed for three weeks as a baby, trying to find some answers as to why I had been there. I still expected to be reprimanded by sisters—what nurses are still called in Ireland—with raw faces and pursed lips.

The walls were awash in institutional sea-foam green. My boyfriend at the time took a picture of my frightened face, the flash bleaching me out to only dark eyes.

The White Orchid

Leaving my office this evening, I see the white orchid’s last petal struggling to hold on. With its faded grey veins and withered brown edges, it looks like a bit of old, crumpled paper. Even the sunlight streaming through the window doesn’t brighten it. Tenderly, I reach down to touch its softness.

The touch transports me back to when I first met Shirley, who gave me the orchid. I remember it vividly.

On Hateful Things

This essay is modeled after Sei Shonogun’s list “Hateful Things” from her tenth-century classic The Pillow Book. She listed everything she hated about being a lady-in-waiting to the Japanese empress, ca. 966-1017.

I wrote my list as a family physician working in community health centers, ca. 2005-2020. As our nation grapples with endemic racism while also facing the COVID pandemic, my trials and tribulations may seem trivial–but they also reflect a broken medical system that badly needs fixing, for everyone’s sake.

Beginnings

I want to remember this.

In six weeks, I graduate from nursing school. I learned the fundamentals. I learned the requisite skills. I learned the “why” and the “should.”

I also learned about self-care. Actually, I learned a lot about it. Insomuch that my classmates and I were sick of hearing of it. We heard it so many times. 

My classmates have been an inspiration for me. Our passion and collective drive are astounding. We are invigorated. We are excited. We want to help.

Early Morning. Again

I sit on the sofa,
alone in the sunroom,
stirring a cup of mocha-coffee,

Soon it turns cold.
Your mother’s quilt, an heirloom
pulled off our bed,

wraps my shoulders.
The corner touching my cheek
is soaked in wild grief,

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