Daily Constitutional

Rounds at the cancer institute where I’m a nurse practitioner start at 8:00 am: bellies are pressed, labs frowned at, lungs auscultated, pain discussed. Teams of physicians, nurse practitioners, residents, interns and students roam the halls–teaching, conversing, lecturing, scratching their heads.

But one of my favorite parts of the day starts at 10:00 am. That’s when the physical therapists start arriving and the patients start their daily exercise–walking the halls. Some measure their effort in steps, some in laps, some in miles.

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Lost in a Frigging Spaghetti Maze

Several times a month, I’d find a patient wandering the lobby of my medical building, looking very lost. One afternoon, hurrying from work to beat the rush hour traffic, I came upon an elderly gentleman staring at the office directory on the wall.
I approached him and spoke softly, “Help you find something?”
He grinned, “Thanks, honey, but this place’s a frigging spaghetti maze. Got here early cause it’s my first time. Looking for Dr. Smith, know him?
“No, sorry, don’t think he’s in this building.”
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Confronting a Colleague’s Loss of a Child

It’s too painful to confront a colleague’s loss of a child.
Three or more decades ago, we physicians had more difficulty dealing with death and dying than in more recent times. But it is still very difficult.
We are particularly at a loss when it comes to the death of a physician’s child. And it is even more challenging when it is a colleague, a member of the hospital staff’s child who has died.

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The Power of Doing Nothing

In the support group that I facilitate for family and friends of individuals struggling with addictive behaviors, people spill their stories of sadness, of anger, of frustration…

Mary barely introduces herself before describing her struggles. Married for thirteen years, the mother of two little boys, she complains about her husband’s alcoholism. Her in-laws’ get-togethers revolve around heavy drinking, dancing, and singing, often extending into the next morning. Last weekend, after her husband got fired, she took her boys and slept at her mother’s place.

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With a Little Help from My Friends

Six years ago, I retired early because of serious health problems. I’d worked for decades as a doctor.

Early on, it was difficult for me to ask for and accept help. I was always the one who stepped in, not the one who needed assistance. Well-meaning friends would say, “Let me know if I can do anything.” I was floundering.

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Please Give Me a Hug

I knew almost immediately that I was pregnant, and I knew remaining pregnant was not an option. I scheduled a D & C procedure at a local clinic, telling no one in my family. The only person who knew was the man involved, a man forty years my senior. 
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Generations of Givers

My parents spent their lives as givers, not receivers. Buying them a gift that they would graciously accept and use always proved challenging; they, however, never stopped gifting my older brother and me, their grandchildren, and even my paternal grandmother. Whenever I had a problem, my parents always responded with an encouraging “How can we help?” response.

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An Editor’s Invitation: How Can I Help?

Sometimes, when a patient comes to me with a myriad of thorny problems–“My teenage son is stressing me out…I’m so depressed…My back pain has come back…The insurance won’t cover any more physical therapy…None of the medicines are doing any good…My mother’s memory is failing…” I’ll ask, “How were you hoping I could help you today?”
 
Said unfeelingly, this question may sound like an attempt to shut my ears and cut to the chase. Expressed with genuine concern, however, I hope it comes across somewhat differently–as a wish to make best use of our time together, an invitation to shine

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