Chief Complaint: Not Always What You Assume

 
If I did not ask, I would have assumed regaining muscle control was the “chief complaint” of the young man I was caring for during my brain injury elective. He was an active college student up until a few months ago when a tragic accident left him wheelchair-bound and dependent on nursing staff for even the smallest of tasks. 
 
The first time we met, he introduced himself to me through a laminated copy of the alphabet. Spelling out his name took some time, due to the severe spasticity that still engulfed his musculoskeletal system, but it was his

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The Warrior

When I first met my future sister-in-law—I was fifteen, she was seventeen—I assumed that her life was perfect. She was pretty, perky and popular—everything I was not. She was dating my brother, a medical school student, while I had never been on a date. I just knew her life would be a fairy tale with a happily-ever-after ending.

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To Chemotherapy–Or Not!

I had breast cancer twice. My first time I made an educated choice not to start aromatase inhibitors (AIs). With early stage premenopausal cancer, overall survival rates were the same, on or off AIs. (There is 13% increased chance of reoccurrence off AIs). I chose survival rates and lifestyle. I am very active and wanted to avoid muscle and joint aches, osteoporosis and possible diabetes.  
I felt like I was in Vegas, spinning in Russian Roulette. I chose the wrong number and lost. Two years later, I grew another breast cancer on the same side, in breast tissue remaining

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An Editor’s Invitation: Making Assumptions

As a physician, I make assumptions all the time.
 
When a child or teenager presents to me with chest pain, I assume that the pain is not being caused by heart disease–the thing that they or their parent are most worried about.
 
Yes, I do my due diligence to confirm that assumption. But that snap judgment occurs as quickly as the words “chest pain” are out of a youngster’s mouth.
 
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Reflections on Ageism

As a pre-med student, I volunteered in the emergency department of a local hospital, and I also worked as a personal trainer for MacWheelers, an exercise program for adults with spinal cord injury. Looking back, I now realize how often I made wrong assumptions about elderly patients I cared for. I assumed they were too weak and fragile for simple tasks. As a personal trainer, I was overly restrictive on which equipment they could use and the types of movements they could safely perform.

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Corporality

My first memory is of me asking my mother about the man trapped behind the glass of the picture frame that lived amongst the gods in my grandmother’s temple. I learned that he was my grandfather, and that he stopped breathing to go to a better place. I didn’t understand why he didn’t love my grandmother enough to take her along.
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