An Unlikely Pairing

It is no secret that medicine and art are intimately linked. Consider the utility of music therapy, the innate beauty of medical illustration, and the use of the performing arts to promote healing. As a jazz saxophonist, I have always seen playing and listening to music as a form of relaxation. But what I never realized was how connected playing a musical instrument can be to performing a medical procedure like endoscopy. That may seem an unlikely pairing to some, but they are not so different after all.

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The Right Call

How to thank the on-call physician? Not on MyChart. My brain previously so flustered I couldn’t put a name to the voice; only by checking “Medications,” where he’d written a thorough note, could I make the link, but impossible to message directly.

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The Doctor’s Burden

For nine months there have been stones in my mouth, worn smooth from worrying. A lick for each of the sorrows I keep to myself. Perfect marbles kept out of sight, my gift to you.

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Beyond Diagnoses: Seeing and Sensing with Soul

Lori is here today with a chief complaint of dizziness and headache. At least that’s what my medical assistant tells me. But after practicing family medicine for almost twenty years, I’ve learned that there’s usually more to the story.

I recognize the expectation to match the story and physical exam to a reasonable diagnosis, especially one that the patient can trust. All in 20 minutes. No pressure at all!

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Beyond Connection

Very early on a Sunday morning, my friend Marla called asking for help. She was in excruciating pain—bone metastases, as it later became clear, from her breast cancer. She’d been instructed to head to the emergency room and needed a ride.

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A Tale of One City

A physician-mother has two children, both of whom sought medical care at a storied medical institution in the environs of Boston, Massachusetts, in December of 2022, as the city was in the grip of the “tripledemic” of COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza. Following is a summary of each case.

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Stories

For the fifteen years that I have been at my current job, I have held onto my patients’ stories. Tucked into special pockets in my heart, they would be brought out whenever their “owner” came in for an appointment, where the story would take on a new form, then be stored away again. There were stories of shame and heartbreak, stories of joy and triumph. People confessed their deepest fears, shared events never revealed, and confided fledgling hopes and dreams. These stories are signs of patient-physician trust and of sacred human-to-human connections.

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My First Epidemic

I used to stick needles into veins. I learned how on manikins and co-workers’ extended arms of trust. I never took a class. I wasn’t a nurse. I was a white middle-class health educator in central valley California teaching farmworkers and homeless men and women about a new epidemic called AIDS. Educators were needed who were comfortable talking about sex and condoms, hope and death, and drawing possibly infected blood.

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Losing My Footing

I have a neuroimmune illness that for years was considered not to be “real” but that changed my life. On top of that, I’m unable to tolerate many medications, which have too often been prescribed for me with no consideration of what I’ve told doctors about their debilitating side effects. But about eighteen years ago, an angel entered my life in the form of a physician who did his initial training in India and then finished up in New York. I don’t know if it was his Eastern orientation that made him so patient-oriented, listening seriously when I needed his

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Aphasia

Your words topped mid-sentence again. Will I speak to fill the awkward silence as you search for the words, or hope you complete the thought? Your quiet blank look hangs like milk fog, white, colorless as music at rest when I can still hear it playing. I search your face as finally you finish speaking, apologizing to me again.

The diagnosis was FND. I had never heard of Functional Neurologic Disorder. When you first described symptoms to medical staff, they first thought you had MS, especially after many falls.

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Thanks for the Memories

I have always felt blessed to be a person who enjoys her own company—who does not feel lonely when alone. That being said, I do welcome technology and its ability to link me virtually with family and friends. I do rely on a car, train and plane to transform those virtual connections into in-person ones. And I am grateful to books that always create a bridge between me and other people and worlds. Although the content of the books is fictional, the characters, plots and themes resonate in a very real way.

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December More Voices: Connections

Dear Pulse readers,

When I was a second-year medical student, a physician in our lecture hall warned us what would happen if we made a particular error:

“Your patient’s family will sue you,” he said sharply, as if reprimanding us for a mistake we’d already made.

“And you will deserve to be sued.”

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