Not Even Forty…

His wife left him that morning. That’s what he told the police officer who arrived on the scene after his large truck plowed into the back of my little red car. “I wasn’t paying attention. I was speeding up as I hit her.”

Ahead of us, an elderly woman had disobeyed her doctor’s orders not to drive while on pain medication. She decided to make a left turn by cutting off multiple lanes of traffic. My brakes held as all my weight went into them. I had less than a second to be thankful for missing her.

As I was

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An Editor’s Invitation: My Aching Back

Back pain is as common as rain. It’s one of the most frequent concerns that patients bring to me as a family physician.
And I can identify with that pain–at least a little bit.
I had back pain as a teenager. I remember going to see a doctor about it. She examined me, took a pointless X-ray and then offered me something priceless: reassurance. “You’re a muscular guy,” she said, even though I weighed a scrawny 120 pounds.
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Yellow Froth

He routinely slept through the day, sedating himself into a stupor with alcohol, benzodiazepine, hypnotics, and narcotic pills — some obtained legally from doctors, some bought on the internet from India — so the fact that he slept long into the afternoon did not alarm me much at first. I checked on him throughout the day just to make sure he was still alive.

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Teeter Totter

I am the only adult child of an alcoholic nurse. Well, he was a nurse, until alcohol took everything. He stopped going to work because they kept sending him home due to alcohol withdrawals. He didn’t renew his nursing license, and that was how he ultimately lost his career. He also lost his house, his car, his relationships, and his health.
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If It Kills Me, It Kills Me

He was my doppelganger: where I could go if I chose drink over life. I was his advocate, supporter, commiserator. I supported him in his choice to drink himself to death, and it was one of the hardest and most meaningful journeys I have had with any of my clients. I will always be proud of the fact that I was able to bring together a team that supported his right to live life on his own terms.

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I Confess

I confess. I would drive drunk on nights I went clubbing. I’d dance until my knees hurt and drink until the brand of gin in my drinks didn’t matter. With my windows rolled down, I hoped fresh air conjured some semblance of sobriety, in case I encountered a cop. I’d bellow my favorite songs, head hanging out the window. Me. An R.N.
In December 1996, I walked into my urban ICU, before color-coded uniforms, wearing my home-made Santa Claus scrub top, and found myself assigned to T.J. Dalton, a 30-year old victim of a drunk driver. The driver was

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“Two men walk into a bar…” You know that joke, don’t you, with its endless variations? The one that is followed by a groan, often told by your beloved dad and uncles? Well, I have a different one to tell.

Two women walked separate routes in life: painful, exhausting, circuitous. One was a model-turned-realtor, the other a doctor. They knew each other once, although they were never friends, and then they were separated by geography and time. They never thought about one another again.

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Amazing What a Naive Medical Student Can Do

I was a third-year medical student on a scholarship trying to make a few extra bucks in order to survive. So I applied for a job as the overnight lab technician at a local community hospital. My job required that I go to the ER when they called for labs, draw the blood from the patient, take the specimen back to the lab, run the tests, and then go back to the ER and deliver the results. Which was fine.
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Saying No

I live a “say no” life — as to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Yet on my twenty-first birthday, I deviated from my rule and, with a group of fellow graduate students, sat at a bar and imbibed one celebratory drink after another. I cannot remember what the bar looked like, but I do recall that it was loud — filled with voices and music — and that it got progressively louder with each drink I had. I cannot remember what I wore on that warm August evening in Evanston, Illinois, but I can still feel the clamminess of my skin

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An Editor’s Invitation: Drinking

At my college, if you were male, drinking beer earned you acceptance, admiration and praise. For some reason, drinking many beers and capping it off by violently throwing up was seen as manly.

I’m not much of a drinker, which took its toll on my college status. To this day, I’m happy sharing just one beer with my wife

I don’t consider this a matter of virtue, it’s simply the way I’m wired. Neither of my parents were big drinkers.

Yet in my own life and in my medical practice I’ve seen the impact of alcohol on others.

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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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