© 2019 Pulse - Voices from the Heart of Medicine, Inc. All rights reserved.
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.
The hospital café was a long walk from our classroom, so, as a group, some of us from the summer program walked there together for lunch. I was out front, with earbuds in, not paying attention, when I felt a slight tap on my shoulder. I turned to see an elderly woman. She was bent over and looked weary and lonely. I took out my earbuds and said, “Excuse me?”
She said, “I’m a veteran.” She showed me her badge. “Can you take me to get some food? I don’t have any money.” She said that after she ate, she
And then suddenly she spoke, from the place where she faced the bathroom mirror. Her voice drifted across the hall: “My love handles are gone.”
He was my first encounter with a comatose patient. How does one communicate with an unconscious body? With tubes and wires and braces. He was fragile. He’d suffered a diffuse nerve injury and faced an unknown prognosis, yet his family was pleading for a hint of recovery as we were preparing to transfer him to a rehabilitation facility thater that day. He lay motionless on the stretcher while I awaited the arrival of transport staff to wheel him away.
I tried to gather my dropped purse and Chinese takeout but didn’t realize I couldn’t even gather my body until a stranger knelt beside me and said, “Let me stabilize your arm.The ambulance is on the way.”
“All I wanted was a shiny nose,” I cried. She had to sit down because her giggles made her wheeze.
I must disguise the truth.
Because of HIPAA.
I must hold these heavy truths within my small-framed body. Because of HIPAA, I can’t tell you the real reasons I’m so upset–the death tolls, the suicides, the real-life people who are my patients and the real tragedies that they suffer. I have to change the identifying facts about this person or these people to the point that they are unrecognizable. They are my secret, my deep, dark secret that can fester inside of me and cause me to feel terrible. Incapable of saving. Inadequate at what I do, because what I