El Jugo Me Hizo Daño

February 2010:

I toss and turn in bed, trying to fall back asleep; I have only a small cushion of time between getting up and heading to the hospital. I’m a third-year medical student doing my medicine subinternship. I have the choice of going to work or staying in bed a little longer.

On the other side of town, Ms. Garcia doesn’t have much choice about heading to the hospital: She’s bleeding from her nose and rectum. Standing in a puddle of blood, she calls 911.

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Living on the Edge

“How are you adapting to your diagnosis?” the specialist asked. “What changes have you made in your daily life?”

“I take the phone with me to the barn,” I told her. “That way if I need help I can call.”

She looked at me gently, as one might regard a confused child. Even then, I didn’t expect the heavy blade of her answer:

“There wouldn’t be time.”

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Perspectives on COVID-19: Bonds of Marriage, Part 2

Editor’s note: This two-part series presents the stories of Wim and Jo, a husband and wife whose lives were profoundly impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Jo’s Story

My name is Jo Ann, and everybody calls me Jo. I’m seventy-four years old. I’ve enjoyed teaching grade school for forty-two years and plan to return after COVID-19–if they let me.

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Perspectives on COVID-19: Bonds of Marriage, Part 1

Editor’s note: This two-part series presents the stories of Wim and Jo, a husband and wife whose lives were profoundly impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19).

Wim’s Story

My name is Willem, and I go by Wim. I’m seventy-five years old. I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a young man with plans to go into seminary. That’s where I met Jo, my wife. We didn’t go together too long before getting married. She supported me while I redirected my studies towards a master’s in education. Since then, I’ve taught grade school, worked in school politics and had jobs in sales before retiring a year ago.

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A Real Family?

A few years ago, a Chicago-area fertility clinic ran a series of radio ads at the same early hour each morning. For weeks, I woke to a woman’s energetic voice cutting through the fog of my semiconsciousness, announcing her gratitude to the center’s reproductive specialists. “Without them,” she proclaimed brightly, “my baby wouldn’t have my blue eyes and my husband’s wide smile.”

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“The Worst Mistake of My Life”

Before stepping into Jasmin’s room, I slathered my hands with cold Purell and began the mundane ritual of donning my PPE. The smell of alcohol filled my nostrils as I grabbed a gown and the paper bag containing my N-95 mask and face shield. Like a seasoned soldier preparing for battle, I put on my gear with ease. With my gloves glued to my skin by sanitizer, I rapped on Jasmin’s door, asking permission to enter.

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Watching Cricket With My Dad

“Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes!” my dad often crows.

This phrase takes me back to my boyhood, watching the Cricket World Cup matches with him. Time and again, I would pray fervently for an Indian win, but watch in increasing desperation as India threw away an insurmountable lead and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

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Q&A: The COVID-19 Vaccine

“How are you surviving the COVID-19 pandemic?”

Lately, this is my new opening question with patients who come for a routine office visit. As a cardiologist in a community-hospital setting, I see mostly elderly patients.

When I ask my patients this question as they sit on the exam table wearing their brightly colored masks, they usually answer, “I don’t go out much. When I do, I wear a mask and practice social distancing.”

In recent weeks, they’ve begun asking me questions–about the COVID-19 vaccine. Having just received the vaccine myself, I can describe the experience firsthand.

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The Kiss

The year is 2015, and I’m on my thirteenth surgical mission, but my first to Venezuela. I am a plastic surgeon, traveling with a nonprofit that offers free plastic surgery for people with birth defects such as cleft lip. We’re making a two-week visit to the coastal city of Cumaná, 250 miles east of Caracas.

Halfway through our first day of surgery, I’m asked to come out to the waiting area to assess a young girl named Vanessa, whose mother has brought her as a walk-in patient.

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