August 2021

The Other Side of the Mask

I don’t know what it’s like on the other side of the mask.

Not the cloth mask, which I now wear every day, as habitually as my socks. I mean the plastic bipap mask, which provides the highest level of ventilation COVID patients can receive, short of intubation.

That mask.

Two Pandemics

A friend of mine once jokingly chided her mother for smoking around her when she was a baby. Her mother defensively stated that her doctor had actually smoked with her! We’ve come a long way since then, but despite progress in our understanding of the hazards of smoking, a significant proportion of the population continues to smoke.

The Limits of Self-Care

I’ve been thinking lately about the perils of self-care. I’m an unlikely critic of anything that promotes wellness, especially among clinicians, who face daily affronts to our desire to care deeply and well for our patients. But hear me out.

We live in a consumerist society. Any notion with a glimmer of truth will be trumpeted, captioned, tweeted, and twisted into a sales pitch, whether by backyard YouTubers or major corporations. I do think self-care is important—of course I do!—but not the way most people understand it.

Apocalyptic Ping-Pong

So tired of wildfire smoke and pandemic and stress.

So grateful for clearer skies this weekend, my son’s team winning their soccer tournament, the brief moment of clean-enough air yesterday evening that allowed me to ride my horse and feel a moment of balance before diving into a new week.

A Time to Mend

“After eighty-five years of life, I still don’t know what death is,” said Lonnie, as I sat beside her bed in the nursing home. “I just know it scares the heck out of me.”

Despite decades as a hospice social worker, I don’t know what death is either; but I’ve spent much time with patients exploring the question together.

“What scares you?” I asked.

Womb in Waiting

              “Yes, death will make the poem end.” – Danielle Chapman

              i History

Fact: my mother had a hysterectomy at age 80.
Fact: she had birthed six children, miscarried one.
Fact: she told us she did not need those parts anymore.
Fact: she was diagnosed with breast cancer at 94.
Fact: her sister was diagnosed at 98.
Fact: my aunt chose a mastectomy, lived to 103.

Too Close to Home

Let’s call her Doris (though that was not her real name). She was as lovely as could be last winter. She had been up on the fifth floor for weeks, but just couldn’t wean herself off less than 8 liters oxygen to go home. She made no excuses; her lifetime of smoking had left her lungs both restricted and obstructed. On rounds, we started to discuss the likelihood of her going to a facility, rather than seeing her new grandbaby, a choice she understandably can’t fathom.

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