My father’s final gift to me was acceptance and an expression of love that I had wanted for many years.

My father had Alzheimer’s disease at eighty-three years old, and my mother was his caretaker. He would wander and escape, and she would have the police bring him home. He would get dressed at 3 a.m. for a day at the beach in January, and she would convince him to stay home. Her health was suffering.

Read More »

How I Came to Nazareth

I still have fond memories of my kindergarten teacher, Sister M. Elizabeth Kobierowski at Our Lady of Czestochowa School in South Brooklyn, New York. She was the first of many Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth I would come to know and love during my formative years in our predominantly Polish-American parish. That love would continue well into my teens, when I attended the Bishop McDonnell Memorial High School, also in Brooklyn.

Read More »

The Struggle of Not Being Able to Do More

It was just another day at the outpatient plastic surgery clinic where I am training as a medical student. A middle-aged man walked in with multiple scars on the back part of both hands. At first glance, they looked like bite marks. On closer inspection, I saw exposed bone. What was I seeing? This didn’t make sense.

Read More »

No Chill Pill?

They have pills for everything it seems, but not a chill pill.

When I was young, I would often look up to see my mother’s concerned face outlined in the kitchen window, knocking, beckoning me into the house. “Quickly,” she’d say, leading me to the sink where she immersed my wrists into cold water, while draping a wet hand towel over the back of my neck. This was a normal occurrence for me: getting overheated, face red, white around my lips. “Sit in front of the fan,” my mother would say, as the headache started.

Read More »

No Shoes, No Service

The sign on the door of the hospital gift shop boldly dictates who will be admitted: “No Shoes, No Service,” it says.

“But I’m wearing shoes.” The man’s voice screeches obstinately, the soles of his cutaway tennis shoes flap, and his bare feet slap hard on the linoleum floor as he fumbles the get-well card he’s holding and it goes flying.

I, an underpaid clerk, sigh in disgust. I haven’t encountered a customer like this in some time. His hair is slicked back, his shirt is untucked, his face is partly hidden behind a blue surgical mask.

Read More »

A Little Gesture Goes a Long Way

In the past year, I have attended multiple diversity training sessions that have opened my eyes to understanding health equity, social injustice, and institutionalized racism. Prior to this, I had not fully understood or acknowledged my white privilege. And I did not know how to use that privilege to be an advocate for those who have little to no voice and who can be taken advantage of by the health-care system.

Read More »

I Carry Her Memory

Ms. K was one of the oldest patients I’d met. I wanted to sit and hear her stories, to say, “Tell me more,” the way we learned in medical school. But the equipment sustaining her left no room for a chair to sit in. And COVID had stolen her ability to speak in sentences; she puffed out words two or three at a time before inhaling again. Even so, each word was sharp and spirited and made me smile.

Her face was a rich and deeply wrinkled landscape. Ms. K’s gown hung loosely on her, exposing the silhouettes of her

Read More »

Another Day on the Calendar

“And the year 2020 came to an end and they all lived happily ever after.” Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all leave this year behind and be certain of the “happily ever after” part?

I have often wondered at the hype that typically accompanies the end of a year and the beginning of another, especially since the year starts and ends at different times, depending on which calendar we choose to follow. The Jewish New Year and the Chinese New Year do not coincide with the 1st of January, and they do not even occur on the same

Read More »

Coming Out of Retirement

People cheered the first trucker transporting a huge load of COVID-19 vaccines as he left the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The news anchor exclaimed, “This just might be the beginning of the end.” That driver represented one individual in a long chain of workers besides doctors and nurses needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

A  few days before, an email from the state health commissioner had popped up in my in-box. Its subject line caught my attention: “Urgent: Volunteers Needed for Vaccination Campaign.” To me, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now that a vaccine is

Read More »

The Doorknob Moment

“Doc, can I say just one more thing?”

Every clinician knows this moment—the so-called doorknob moment, when your hand is reaching for the exam-room door, and your patient asks the question that’s been on their mind the whole visit. It’s the issue that’s been nagging them, usually an embarrassing or emotionally laden issue, sometimes both. Every clinician knows better than to walk out on a doorknob moment.

I sit back down. “What’s on your mind?”

Read More »

She Went Home: End of Life in the Era of COVID-19

The mother had delivered a healthy newborn. After a careful instrument count and exchanging pleasantries, I headed for the shower. It was getting late, and I had unfinished business.

On to the ICU, but not for my usual reasons. I heard sounds of beeping intensify just before I entered the room, and I felt an ache inside. My eyes focused on the vital signs on the screen. I sat down. “Good evening,” I said.

A smile spread across her face. Struggling, she said,  “Good evening, I love you.” I was relieved, at least for the moment. Until then, I did

Read More »

Chapters in a Life Story

My patient, Mary Kay, was a take-charge person. Even after a surgical error left her legs completely paralyzed, at age 48, she adjusted well to living in a nursing home and was dynamic, intelligent, and dedicated to her family and friends. Some of her friends even enjoyed a weekly martini with her.

After her tragic medical experience, but before I assumed her care, Mary Kay’s husband, unable to live without her, had taken his own life. Thereafter, with the best of intentions, her family withheld other unpleasant news from her, including hiding her granddaughter’s chronic fluctuating illness. Mary Kay secretly

Read More »
Scroll to Top

Call for Entries​

Pulse Writing Contest​​

"On Being Different"