Joanne Wilkinson ~
Spring comes slowly to New England. When I leave the house in the mornings at the end of April, I pull my fleece jacket tighter around me on my way to the car. My preteen daughter’s dark eyes and solemn mouth watch from the second-floor window as I pull away.
In the “don and doff” station at the respiratory tent in the hospital parking lot, I put on a gown and
filled with meds both past and present
and read out loud the labels of those we stopped,
why he needs oxygen at night, and the rescue inhaler.
Between pills it’s my job to ask in a generic way
because his story needs a prop.
It’s winter of 1993. A cold, snowy day. Windy. A blizzard. The phone rings.
I’m not on call for my patients today–except for one. Daisy has been in my care since the early 1970s, and given the risk that she may suffer a serious downturn, I’ve instructed her nursing home to call me whenever necessary.
2. History of postpartum psychosis
3. No custody of her children
4. In treatment for cocaine abuse
5. Regular smoker
if you happened to pass by room 2
in a medical practice somewhere uptown
some time in the spring
you would’ve heard
a medical student and her patient
giggling like toddlers
right in the middle of the cranial nerve exam
what a thing to hear
if only i could write that prescription
laughter po prn
no copay required
When I first met Ms. Ruiz, I was barely three months into my first year as a family-medicine resident. I was working harder than I’d ever worked before, and continually facing new challenges. I knew that I was learning, and so I persevered, but opportunities for self-doubt were abundant.
Maybe that was why Ms. Ruiz made such a big impression on me.
A middle-aged woman with a small
In broken English, against the backdrop of the emergency department’s chaos and clatter, Mr. Simon relayed his story: unintentional weight loss, gradually yellowing skin, weeks of constipation. He punctuated his list of devastating symptoms with laughter–exaggerated but genuine guffaws.
Over the next few days, as the medical student responsible for his care, I was also responsible for handing him piece after piece of bad news. An obstructing gallstone in
It’s late on a Friday afternoon in the outpatient clinic where I’m a third-year psychiatry resident. I’m wrapping up my appointment with Jane, a thirty-five-year-old woman with a mild intellectual disability who comes every month to refill her antidepressant prescription.
“Have you been watching the court case on TV?” she whispers.
I stop what I’m doing and look at her.
“The case with the judge and