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.

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The Threshold

I suit up. Hand sanitizer, gown. Hand sanitizer, mask and goggles. Hand sanitizer, adjust the goggles that have steamed up from the mask. Hand sanitizer, gloves.

Through the door of the ICU, I see my patient, staring off towards the windows, and his hand grasps at the air. I lean forcefully to drag open the suctioned sliding door. I enter the room and introduce myself. “I’m Doctor Tamarelli with psychiatry! Your doctors asked us to check in with you!”

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Flow with It

Slow. Sluggish. Feet dragging. Legs heavy.

The run was not the effortless morning wake-up I had envisioned when I sat on front steps tying the shoes. The gazelle I had envisioned, gently bouncing over the trails, had turned into more of a hippo waddling along.

Then, around fifteen minutes into the run, I remembered a friend’s wisdom. “Don’t fight the current. Find it and flow with it.”

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As of this week, I have gone two and a half months without a single human touch, by me or to me. How strange is that? I don’t think I ever before went more than eight hours of daytime without some human touch–a hug, a kiss, a handshake or touching a child’s shoulder in class, demonstrating a physical exam technique, examining a patient. Never.
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A Fourth-Year Medical Student’s Memoir

A few months ago, I was chugging along in my final year of medical school. Then, in March, everything changed.
We all have stories to tell. Mine is the story of fourth-year medical students, and particularly those in my class at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.
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What We Knew

When my neighbors and colleagues and I had to leave our jobs, when we had to stay home, when our favorite activities were canceled, when we became afraid to greet our neighbors, when we became afraid to walk through our neighborhood, when our favorite restaurants closed, when we could only see and hear our friends, our coworkers, our grown children at a technological remove— when all this happened, a few things that we all knew came into sharp focus.  

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No Visitors Allowed

His voice was serious and stern. “You can’t visit, mom,” my son said. “I’m a vector.” In fact, he’s a doctor working at a big-city hospital, and while not on the immediate front lines in terms of direct contact with COVID-19 patients, he is very involved in the logistics related to the ventilators in the ICUs. Walking the common halls and entering the secure isolation areas daily puts him at risk not only for contracting the virus himself but also for transmitting it unknowingly. He could be asymptomatic but test positive for the virus. He absolutely would not consider putting

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The Precariousness of Life

I was in the shower this morning. (I have a big event today: going to the grocery drive-thru while they put some items into the trunk so I can drive home, sanitize everything and finally have some ice cream! Anyway, I digress.) In the shower I was singing the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, “Could We Start Again, Please?”
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Learning Empathy

I met Marv in 1990, when I began teaching at a Michigan public middle school. We shared many of the same eighth-grade students–in my Language Arts classes and his American History ones. We also retired around the same time, in the early 2000s. Marv, however, developed advanced multiple sclerosis, leaving this once active man–who had coached sports and taught driver’s education–wheelchair-bound. For the past two years, he has been confined to his apartment. During my frequent phone calls with him, I have told him that I understand how isolated he feels and I have encouraged him to make the most

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An Editor’s Invitation: COVID-19, Chapter 2

This month’s More Voices theme is COVID-19, Chapter 2. Coronavirus is still very much with us, affecting us in ways we couldn’t have imagined a few months ago.
I’ve been doing telemedicine these past weeks. I’ve had the privilege of accompanying, by phone, a number of my patients who’ve been doing battle with the virus at home–and to everyone’s great relief, most of them have done well.
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