Maria Gervits

Tough Love

Maria Gervits

I miss Alba. I don’t know why, but I do. She was the most challenging patient I’ve ever had. I dreaded seeing her in the office–and yet, somehow, she won me over.

Alba was fifty-nine, with short, silver hair, a deep, gravelly voice from decades of smoking, and an attitude. She had lung disease, heart disease, depression, arthritis and HIV. She also had a complicated social situation. She’d used cocaine and heroin until her husband had died of HIV. She’d then moved in with her elderly mother and cared for her until her mother died of a stroke. Now Alba lived in a shelter right around the corner from where her father had been shot years before.

The biggest joy in Alba’s life was her granddaughter; but her estranged daughter wasn’t letting Alba see her.

Alba frequently missed appointments or, just as often, walked in without notice, demanding to be seen. She was always in crisis–and she generally took out her frustrations on me.

Sharing Secrets

Maria Gervits

“I feel bad…” Amy whispered, then paused.

I’m a family-medicine resident, and I was doing my gynecology rotation, which involved spending a few days at a Planned Parenthood facility. This was my first day. I’d been assigned a patient to shadow: a young woman named Amy, who was here to have a first-trimester abortion.

I’m a fan of Planned Parenthood’s work providing high-quality, affordable contraceptive and gynecological care. In college, when I lost my health insurance, I’d gone to Planned Parenthood for birth control. Now, as a doctor in training, I was curious to see how the clinic worked from the inside.

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