Finding Innisfree

Lawrence Dyche

Roger looked up at me over the oxygen mask, his eyes drawn wide by the sores stretching his face. He lifted a hand for me to take.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Jen had said before I’d entered his room. “They’ve taken him off a lot of the medication. He’s very lucid, but he’s depressed and scared.” 

The previous fall, Roger and Jen had begun couples therapy with me. They were both thirty-two and had been together for ten years. Three years before they came to me, Roger had been diagnosed with leukemia. A bone-marrow transplant had left him cancer-free, but his prognosis was guarded. He and Jen argued frequently, his desire for independence clashing with her insistence on managing

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A Brush With the Beast

It all begins one Sunday morning when Mrs. Morris, a 75-year-old retiree with a heart condition, trips on her way out of church. She falls flat on the sidewalk, can’t get up, and ends up in our Bronx emergency room. A CT scan shows a pelvic fracture, and she’s admitted to our inpatient team.

When I join the family medicine residents to see Mrs. Morris the following day, she can’t get out of bed. She’s got short, unruly white hair and a gee-whiz expression that charms us. “What a pain!” she says. Given how close she lives to the brink–terrible circulation has cost her one heart attack and several toe amputations–I’m impressed with her good cheer.

Things looks promising. Follow-up

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The Pencil Man of Western Boulevard

Paula Lyons

His history was Dickensian. As a little boy, born with an IQ of about 80 and a wandersome nature, he’d toppled onto the train tracks and gotten run over. How he didn’t die is a mystery–this was more than fifty years ago, and he lost both legs up to his hips–but live he did.

I met him in the hospital, where he’d had surgery on the pressure sores that came from long hours perched in a wheelchair. When I asked him to roll over so I could see, he hoisted his whole body (200 pounds without legs!) out of the bed via the orthopedic trapeze. His arms were massively strong, his disposition was sweet, and he spoke and behaved

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Mothers and Meaning

John G. Scott

“Dr. Scott, this is Dr. Font.” The call came from my mother’s cardiologist as I was about to see my first patient of the morning. “Your mother is worse. You’d better come as soon as you can. I don’t think she’ll survive the day.” Those blunt words shattered my denial: I had convinced myself that it was possible to fix the cumulative, lifelong damage wreaked on my mother’s heart by her atrial septal defect, a congenital condition.

I thought back to the time, weeks earlier, when I’d gone to visit my parents. The vibrant, life-loving, intellectually engaged woman I knew so well was beaten down by her illness. Pain clouded her eyes and lined her face. I could

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My War Story

Marc Tumerman

My practice is in a small rural Wisconsin town just down the road from a large military base. I see soldiers pretty regularly these days; they stay here for several weeks of pre-deployment training before shipping off to Iraq. They come from all over the country–men and women of various ages, some single, some married and with families. Their health-care needs aren’t too different from those of my civilian patients: maternity care, chronic illness management and the usual scrapes and bruises. I like having them on my schedule; their Boston accents and Georgia drawls make a pleasant change from my neighbors’ familiar, made-for-radio Midwestern monotone.

I don’t dwell much on what these soldiers do for a living. I do

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Aunt Helen Sees a Ghost

Laurie Douglas

Five months ago my husband and I moved from Manhattan to Queens to take care of his 84-year-old aunt, who has Alzheimer’s. Although she can’t cook, shop, or manage her money anymore, Helen is remarkably functional in her own home. She’s lived here almost forty years, more than half of them alone, as a widow.

Nothing has changed–the furniture, the bric-a-brac, even the refrigerator magnets–since my husband was a child. Neither has Helen’s daily routine. She spends the day on autopilot, brewing cups of weak Lipton tea loaded with half-and-half, washing tiny machine-loads of hankies and hand towels, and making her way through the house at dusk, flicking on plug-in nightlights along the way. It’s the perfect setup for

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