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.

Now, after much soul-searching, I am leaving my health center to work elsewhere. As I’ve gradually packed my stuff—clearing out my desk, my shelves, my file cabinet—I’ve reveled in the spaciousness in my office. But in contrast to the lightness of my physical space, my physical body feels weighed down as I ponder my patients’ stories.

What happens to these stories that I have carried for so long? Where should I place them as I prepare to make a new start and create space for future stories? Perhaps I release them with a bow of my head and a gentle exhalation?

When I precept residents, I teach them that all they need to do at each patient appointment is help the patient move a little closer to their health goals and give them some love. The connection is the medicine. With time, I have found it increasingly difficult to take care of patients without understanding who they are and what their story is. Two-dimensional diseases become three-dimensional people. People with depth and complexity. People who take a leap of faith each time they open up to a person whom they see only a few times a year, or even whom they’ve never met, as they seek healing and health.

My patients have made me a better person. They watched over me, noticing when I was tired or happy or overworked. They asked about my family, prayed for me, brought souvenirs from their travels, and made me crafts. They worried about me when I was absent. And when I shared the word of my departure, they shared their excitement for my new adventure.

And so, when I start my new job, as I open myself to personal growth, I will remember my former patients and their stories. I will send them messages of gratitude and my deepest wishes that they, too, are finding that which they seek.

Pamela Adelstein
Newton, Massachusetts


6 thoughts on “Stories”

  1. “Two-dimensional diseases become three-dimensional people.”

    Pamela, I resonate with this sentiment (and others shared in this post) on so many levels. I’m curious how you keep this at the forefront with each patient on busy day with multiple demands.

    May the old stories be stored in heartfelt albums. May there be space for new ones. May the transition feel joyful and supported.

    1. thank you, Kaveri – you ask a good question. I think that the multiple demands are bearable because of the stories attached that bring meaning to the parts of medicine that feel more like drudgery. I know you know that… and you understand the amount of energy it requires.
      Be well

  2. Amazing and thank you for all you have taught me through your actions and voice. Your are a physical and mental healer, you go above and beyond and for that you truly will be blessed I know toher places and people need to be meet with your effective personality that gets the patients to tell on them selves when they are not doing righ…lol you truly are amazing and in the year I worked with you allowed me to be me you listed and supported me. I’m not sure how much i can say Thank You from myself and Team, The CHW will miss you extreamly. Continue to be you continue to be out the box and continue to listen to your patients voices YOU ARE SO AMAZING….SPJ, LCHW

    1. Thank you, Shanna. Thank you. Your words mean so much to me. YOU have taught me so much and I thank you on behalf of the patients and providers for all of the heart, soul, and passion you put into all that you do. I will miss you and the team and I also know that you will continue to soar. xoxo

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