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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My Story

I picked my husband up after work. “Happy birthday!” I said and gave him a quick kiss. “Can we take a short walk? I have something for you.” 
We walked a few blocks to the arboretum and found a quiet bench to sit on. I handed him a birthday card and watched his face as he read the last words on the page: “I’m pregnant.” 
I waited for a reaction–any change of expression–but he just stared at me. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I burst into tears. 

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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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Envisioning My Life at Seventy

 
Today, I retire.
Retirement is often a pseudo-haven, incarcerating the unaccomplished, the unfinished and the unforeseen realities. The predicament of retirement escapes nobody, and this old, crippled woman that I now am thinks of her legacy. The journey had involved much work, struggle and, at times, pain, but I had stood by Aristotle and his revered words about endurance being the greatest part of courage.
 
Distinguished, from everything and everyone, is the legacy I am about to leave behind. I sit on the rocking chair, scanning the room, waiting for something to draw my attention, and there it

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It Was Not Enough

When your heart stopped, I was surrounded by people who did not know you. People who would not recognize your tired eyes, your weakened smile, the sheepish facial expressions that always accompanied your soft-spoken words. I had already started a new rotation at another hospital and was no longer a part of your care team, though I checked in periodically to see how you were doing.

When I received the news, there was no space to process you. I was standing in a crowd of white coats, and I was utterly alone. These were not the white coats who had spent morning after morning

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Illiterate

 
I could not read Don Quijote, nor you,
Yet three months pass there across a table.
“The recipe, please!” I ask, eyes widen.
Behind the kitchen stove, a soft response
In foreign tones, “Lo siento, querida.”
“But do not pity me,” says the smile. 
It was another beautiful day in Toledo, Spain, with the final petals on the chrysanthemums falling from the clinic balcony. I was in the community kitchen with Himo, the cleaning lady. We chatted while she brewed a fresh cup of sugared, Moroccan mint tea for our patients.  
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The Final Showcase – When the Price Is Right

It was one of those mornings when the light penetrated a window with a fierceness that could drown even a hospital room in a 10-foot blanket of warmth. In room 5307, this brightness shed light on frailty. He felt warm, alone. Bony ends obviated their presence beneath crisp white linen.

I sat beside him, agonal respirations as last words. I shuffled between bedside and nursing station telemetry monitor, focused on the upper right screen. 70. 54. 45. 30. Lifeless waveforms. A pause and end in pulsation. His hand in mine with no flinch, no change, and yet so much had

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Snake of Secrets

I did not know to ask for a bereavement day to mourn a baby I hadn’t told anyone existed. Since they did not know, how could I ask for comfort, acknowledgement of loss, special handling in the weeks following the miscarriage? Everyone at work felt mean and cruel and quick.

My husband hadn’t been particularly happy about the baby; we were just digging out from the first two, so I was pretending to be put out. How do you grieve what you said you didn’t want when every ounce of you was thrilled, and no one knew of your rock-skipping, wing-flapping

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