House of Cards

Feeling the urge to void my bladder, I insert the catheter, but nothing comes out. Odd. That’s never happened before. I drink some water and, an hour later, I insert another catheter. Again, no urine appears, just mucus on the tip of the catheter.

I need to void. My whole body is screaming to void. I’m sweating profusely as my system looks for a way to get rid of the urine. I know my BP is rising as my body copes with this stress. I also know that whatever is happening is bad. Really bad. It could damage my

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A Lesson from Dad

In accordance with my faith, I lit a memorial candle for my beloved father this morning; it is four years today since he died in my arms. The candle will burn for more than twenty-four hours. Not only does it remind me of the grief I still feel, but it also represents the light that was my dad–and his fervent wish that I would persevere by embracing the opportunities that life offers.

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The Little Voice Is Wrong

The little voice tells me that I am fraudulent. All the other doctors know more. They understand renal tubular acidosis. Even the residents (trainees) knew about ADAMTS13 antibody in TTP (Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a blood disorder). Now, an article later, that fragment is addressed, but an ocean of ignorance beckons. How dare I do consultations in the ICU when I have never intubated anybody?

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Denial

It was a dark and rainy night, the man was wearing a black t-shirt, and he wasn’t in the crosswalk when the bus hit him. There were no sodium streetlamps, only narrow headlight beams. The bus driver didn’t see the man, only a shadow in the beam. Then came a disembodied thump that sucker-punched the poor man to the pavement.
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Keeping On

Upon entering an exam room, a doctor surely hopes to be greeted with a warm “How are you today?” and an exchange of pleasantries before getting into the purpose of the visit. But what if a diagnosis has been made and major surgery has been advised? In such cases, honest patient responses are of course an option, and doctors have, again surely, heard them all. But I’ve never met my surgeon, so I feel uncomfortable being emotionally forthcoming from the outset. My anxiety, my fears for the future, my lack of control over my circumstances might overwhelm the

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Dose of Truth

“Neurodegenerative,” the neurologist repeated slowly, studying Nancy’s face as she spoke. Dr. Wang had placed her small figure on a chair near Nancy’s and leaned toward her as she explained the nature of the undifferentiated dementia that she’d produced as a diagnosis.

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Non-compliant

I sat in the exam room with Bill, who was here for HIV treatment. Staying on medication was important. It would make HIV undetectable in his blood, reverse his immune system damage and prevent the development of resistance to medications.

“In the past month, how many doses have you missed?”

He met my gaze. “None. I take them every day.”

Bill’s labs said otherwise. His virus level remained high. His pharmacy said he hadn’t picked up his medication in two months.

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The Real Doctor

 
When starting residency, my husband, son and I moved in with my in-laws while awaiting closing on our house.

My father-in-law, a brilliant and respected professor at a small local college, was frequently contacted at home by students, faculty and staff. On my first night of residency “home call” (pre-cell phone), I answered the house phone and received a request to speak to Dr. Dodson.

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Of Course I Knew

It was midway through a crazy-busy Monday morning in the office: a full schedule plus two urgent walk-ins. I was starting to pray for a no-show to help me get caught up.

Roger was my next patient, a 70-year-old man with hypertension and diabetes, a long-time patient who had not been in for a while. Feeling the pressure of my busy schedule, I decided to skip my usual routine of looking over the recent encounters and studies in the chart before going into Roger’s exam room. I knocked, entered and greeted him with a smile, handshake and, “Nice to see

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Belonging

Why did I avoid science and math in college? Why did I feel my successes in high school were somehow a fraud? When I earned a B.A. in American Studies and a Masters in City Planning, these did not feel fraudulent. They made sense: I cared about civil rights and social equity.

As for my undergraduate premed work, I viewed it as an experiment. If I didn’t make it to medical school, I still had my former career, even if I had decided it was one that would not fulfill me. My wonderful grandfather told me, “If you can’t see

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I Faked It and Eventually Made It

When my niece was three years old, I told her to go hide. She turned around and laughed, certain that if she couldn’t see me then, she too, must be concealed. 

A flashback to medical school: 6:00 a.m. surgery rounds. Pimping or, in proper terms, the Socratic method. My kryptonite.

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White Coat to the Rescue

 

“Fake it till you make it”: this was my mantra many times during medical school and residency. Quite often along the way, when I put my white coat on, I felt like I was playing dress up.

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