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About More Voices

Every month More Voices invites readers to contribute short nonfiction prose pieces of 40 to 400 words on a healthcare theme.

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Turning Over a New Leaf

"You Need to Stop Drinking"

 
Early in my family medicine residency, I admitted a woman to the hospital for complications of alcoholism. She was young. She didn’t look like a chronic alcoholic. She continued to work. Even her fingernails were polished. Yet she had alcoholic pancreatitis. She was in severe abdominal pain and was vomiting uncontrollably. As the level of alcohol in her body dropped, she started to shake, indicating withdrawal. We admitted her for intravenous hydration and detoxification from alcohol.
 
I felt drawn to her; she was someone who, like me, had made wrong choices. I wanted to do my best for her.  Her physical symptoms improved quickly; she would only be in the hospital for a few days. Her real problem was the alcoholism itself. She acknowledged that. She was ready to change her life.

Protea caffra

Beverly called the ambulance because she couldn’t walk anymore. Her feet were edematous after ten days of radiation treatment for metastatic lung cancer, and her heart was slowly overfilling with fluid, backlogging into her body. She was stoically resigned to her pain and newfound infirmity, but she kept a wry sense of humor, cracking jokes about being waited upon and the “magic carpet ride” sling we lifted her onto.

During transport to the hospital, Beverly told me she grew protea: pale red, pink and cream-colored flowers native to South Africa. Her family sells them at local farmer’s markets in bouquets. When I inquired further, Beverly perked up and gave me the rundown:

Learning to Let Go

 
Every New Year, many resolutions come to mind to try to guide me and provide focus for the year ahead. Now, as I approach the pre-retirement period of my life, I have chosen to learn and relearn how to let go.
 
I realize that I have to let go of my fantasies, let go of my fears, let go of so many things that seem essential in the moment yet represent nothing more than attachments to the past.

The Devotion of a New Nurse

I can tell you stories about my day, about the mundane miracles that transpire in the time-warped world of this hospital birthing center, but words will hardly convey what it is like--for me--to be a new labor and delivery nurse. Every time I meet a patient and ask them about themselves, I am reminded that I am only hearing bits of the whole story of their life, that I will never really know what life is like for anyone else, and that no one will know (or needs to know) what it is like for me. This seems lonely at first but is actually deeply intimate.  

Worrier to Warrior

I am a worrier. I worry about real and imaginary things, about significant issues and minor ones. My goal for 2020 is to stop being a worrier and instead become a warrior.

I want to embrace each day with courage, not with angst. Perhaps if I do, I will no longer suffer from 24/7 headaches that challenge my ability to concentrate for any extended period of time. Maybe I will stop losing myself in reruns of Law and Order: SVU and instead engage in real life adventures--solo or with friends--at a museum, theater, or restaurant.

An Editor's Invitation: Turning Over a New Leaf


At one time or other, we'd all like to turn over a new leaf.

Which leaf would you choose right now, in 2020, and which have you chosen in the past?

For now, I would choose the leaf that has me feeling bad whenever I run late seeing patients--which is always--because I haven't figured out how to keep a visit within the 20-minute slot that's been allotted.