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The Resilient Heart

Paula Lyons

He was applying for a job on a refuse truck working for the City. This is a very good job for someone whose hiring prospects are otherwise limited. Excellent benefits, all state and federal holidays off, health insurance for oneself and one’s family, physical exercise in the fresh air. (All right, this was Camden, New Jersey, so exercise in some kind of air.) And one more plus: If the team is efficient and

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Second-Guessed

Andrea Gordon

It was a good night, but it’s been a brutal morning.

As a family doctor who does obstetrics, I generally enjoy my time with laboring patients. When I arrived on the maternity floor last night to start my call, things looked pleasantly uneventful. Several patients were in labor. Only one wasn’t progressing well: Ana, age twenty-two. 

I was told that Ana had come to the floor two days earlier, leaking puddles of clear

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Late Again

Paul Gross

One thing I love deeply about being a family doctor is that I get to take care of people–body and soul. A patient comes into my exam room with a litany of physical symptoms (“My shoulder…my knee…my stomach…so tired…this nausea…”) and then, in response to a questioning look, suddenly bursts into tears.

It’s all mine to deal with. The shoulder. The stomach. The tears. I get to gather the pieces and see if

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Looking for Respect

Ashrei Bayewitz

This may sound strange, but I secretly looked forward to my colonoscopy.

I was excited to see the people in the colonoscopy suite–the receptionists, the nurses and my doctor. I knew that they would like me, because I would be brave and respectful. That’s what’s always happened since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease ten years ago. During my multiple colonoscopies and countless doctor visits and other outpatient procedures, I invariably build up

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Millie

Edgar Figueroa

Looking at Millie in her living-room-turned-hospital-quarters, I can’t help reflecting on the four years we’ve shared as patient and doctor. 

We’ve come a long way since our first visit. I was an inexperienced resident; she was a wiry woman who looked to be in her late sixties but was actually fifty-three. 

She’d sat back and stared at me, sizing me up.

“You know I have kids that are older than you?” were her

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Apologies

Alex Okun

You were right.
That IV was no good.
Looking at his arm all swollen like that,
I thought, “That says it all.”

I’m sorry we kept bothering you.
“Please don’t wake him for vitals,”
You told us.

Sometimes we don’t see the signs.

I was hoping she would stay home longer,
That you would have had more time together.
She liked starting school every September.
She loved that backpack.

I’m sorry it always

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Snowscape

Jeffrey R. Steinbauer

The snowstorm had started on Friday, before I’d gone on call for my group. At first I’d thought the weekend would remain quiet, that the small town where I practiced might just slumber under a fresh blanket of snow. But by early Saturday morning, things had gotten busy at the hospital. Several emergency-room visits, phone calls and admissions from the nursing home changed the stillness I’d felt amid the snowfall. In no

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A View From Nepal

Caroline Jones

The farmer wanted to know why his three-year-old son couldn’t walk or talk. 

I sat opposite him in a dark, cold classroom converted into an examination room for a four-day medical clinic last spring in the village of Lapa, high in the Himalayas. 

Wind whistled through the stone walls; rain pounded on the tin roof. The room’s single ceiling bulb kept flickering and dying; I had to use a camping headlamp to see

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Hospice

Joanne Wilkinson

My patient’s beagle is very quiet. He lies next to the brown leather living-room chair she used to sit in when I would come to see her at home. His nose is down on his paws, and his round eyes look up at me, up at the nurses, the home health aides, the family members who go back and forth between here and the back bedroom. He is very alert, but silent. He

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My Patient, My Friend

Larry Zaroff

Death is not always the same. Quantity, fixed: one per patient. Quality, variable.

Doctors see many deaths, of different kinds. This is true of any doctor, whether or not he or she is a surgeon, as I am.

It’s easier for the doctor when death is expected, following a long illness, a chronic disease. Harder when it’s unforeseen–the heart attack, the accident, the gun shot, the sudden death in a young man or

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Halloween Horrors

Paul Gross

One October evening last year, I went to our local pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my daughter. I made sure to bring Cara’s insurance card because my employer had switched us to a new health plan.

I wasn’t sorry about the change. Our prior plan had been operated by incompetents–although they might only have been crooks, I couldn’t be sure–who also managed our flexible spending accounts. These accounts, you may recall,

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In the Nick of Time

Barry Thompson

When the ringing woke me at 3:00 a.m., I hoped that it was my alarm clock. For a neurologist on call, middle-of-the-night phone calls mean trouble; as a rule, you don’t get awakened at that hour unless it’s something really serious.

At 6:00 p.m. the prior evening, a young man had shown up in the ER of one of our satellite hospitals with a severe headache. He’d been diagnosed with a tension headache

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