Seeing Patients: The Sketchiest Details

Alan Blum

Editor’s Note: This week
Pulse is once again pleased to present sketches by Alan Blum, a family physician who’s been capturing his patients on paper, with grace and affection, for decades. These quick portraits are taken from a collection entitled Seeing Patients: The Sketchiest Details.

You say you think you got a medicine
to stop my seizures?
I don’t know why,
it’s the only exercise I get.
Alan Blum drawing page 6, 6-29-13
Well, it’s a long story with me.
Spent all my money on my wife
when she died.
Two years cancer.
Wasn’t able to do anything.
Wasn’t able to save her.
Spent all my money.
All the money I had saved
I spent on her.

You better just go ahead and do it now,’cause I am mentally prepared for y’all to kill me today.

Well, let me tell you a little story.
I had a little pain in my chest here.
I don’t know whether it was gas pain or not.
So the doctor took one of those electro things
with all the wires and he said,
“Well, it look good, but I need more tests.”
So he sent me for an x-ray like a movie
and he looked at my heart and say,
“It’s okay, but I’m not too satisfied. I want to hear it.”
So he took me in a room and listen with a microphone
and says, “I’m not too satisfied.”
Then he went and stuck a wire up my leg.
On TV, I could see the wire in the heart
pokin’ here and there.
“It alright,” he says, “but I’m not too satisfied.”
So he sent me runnin’ on that movin’ sidewalk
and more tests.
Down the line somewhere he said,
“You alright, but here, take this medicine anyway.”

The reason for my good health?
When I was little,
I tended a cow,
was name’ Mollie,
and we’d be out in the opens a lot.

My friends are all years
younger than I am,
but I think I am still younger
than they are.

How’d I like that no-salt diet you put me on?
Well, sorta takes the sting outta dyin’.

About the author:

Alan Blum is a professor and Gerald Leon Wallace MD endowed chair in family medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine, Tuscaloosa, where he also directs the Center for the Study of Tobacco and Society. In 1977 he co-founded Doctors Ought to Care, an international physicians’ organization that influenced the American Academy of Family Physicians and other health groups to become active in countering the tobacco pandemic. For his efforts, he received the Surgeon General’s Medallion and in 2006 received an honorary doctor of science degree from his alma mater, Amherst College.

Alan Blum’s sketches and stories have been published in Pulse, Literature and Medicine, The Pharos, JAMA, Hippocrates, Emory Medicine and The Color Atlas of Family Medicine. He is frequently asked to speak in medical humanities courses and at conferences.

Story editor:

Diane Guernsey

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