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Just What the Doctor Ordered

David Edelbaum ~

I began practicing as an internist/nephrologist in the early 1960s. Having rented an office in Los Angeles, I introduced myself to the local medical community and set out to build a practice.

With a growing family, a mortgage and an office to support, I was hungry for patients. Hospital emergency rooms were good referral sources, so I took ER call at three different hospitals.

Late one Friday night, I got

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A Tingling Sensation

Mitch Kaminski ~

It had been a hectic day in the urgent-care clinic of my large family practice, and I was starting to worry about the time: My last two patients had put me thirty minutes behind.

I felt relieved when I saw the note for the next patient: “Seventy-four-year-old female with UTI.”

A urinary-tract infection! This should be quick and uncomplicated….

I walked into the room to find a well-dressed older

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A Stranger Comes to Town

Syed M. Ahmed ~

Twenty-five years ago, having completed my family-medicine residency, I left Houston to start a two-year stint practicing in a remote village of fewer than 2,000 souls in the Appalachian Mountains of Ohio.

The day I arrived at my new workplace (a two-person practice in the only clinic for fifty miles), my new colleague Dr. Jones told me that she was leaving the next day on a two-week vacation.

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Playing a Hunch

Amy Crawford-Faucher ~

There’s one thing about being a family doctor: After a while, almost every patient you see is a familiar face. This can be a blessing or a curse, but mostly it’s a blessing.

This morning I’m in my office, reviewing today’s patients with Julia, the medical student rotating in our office.

I’m especially looking forward to my 10:30 appointment. It’s the first checkup for a newborn girl named Ella.

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Too Close for Comfort

Andrea Eisenberg ~

Many years ago, on a busy day in my obstetrics-and-gynecology office, one of my partner’s patients came in for “bleeding, early pregnancy.” Since my partner wasn’t in that day, I saw the woman, whose name was Sarah. After we’d talked a bit, I examined her and did an ultrasound. As I’d expected, she was having a miscarriage. Feeling sorry that Sarah had to hear it from me, rather than from her

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Coming Up Short

Meghan G. Liroff ~

“Why so short?” says the four-year-old girl who’s here with an upper-respiratory infection.

Standing safely between her dad’s knees, she wears a bright pink jumpsuit. Her cheeks are dimpled; her hair is piled in a frizzy bun. She looks me up and down, as if trying to make sense of me.

I can’t help laughing.

It’s true, I think. At five feet even, I’m not blessed with height–but I

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Working Without a Net in Kenya

The thirteen-year-old boy sits in a battered ENT exam chair. Henry, my Kenyan colleague, hands me a blurry CT scan. “His neck mass has grown for two years,” Henry says. “We think it is a glomus vagale tumor. Do you agree?”

I hold the scan up to a window. The vascular mass fills the side of the boy’s neck, displacing his carotid artery. “That’s probably right,” I respond. “At home, we would get more studies. We

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Learning Respect

David Edelbaum ~

When I finished my medical training, almost sixty years ago, I was like many new graduates: I thought I knew it all.

I opened a private office in Los Angeles and paid courtesy calls on the local physicians to let them know my qualifications and my availability for consultation, as both an internist and a nephrologist. (The treatment of kidney disease was then in its infancy, and I was the

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25 Minutes

Pager rings. Just 5 minutes to get to the ED. Calling down as I rush to the trauma elevators, they tell me over the phone “Shots fired at a hotel in downtown Los Angeles.” I know that place…

At least 3 people arriving. The ED is bustling, preparing for their arrival. Blade and Prolene stitch in my scrub pocket, I am ready. We are ready.

For a moment the ED almost seems silent.

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My First Code

The radio call comes in: “thirty-something male, cardiac arrest, compressions in progress, five minutes out.”

My adrenaline starts pumping. This new patient will be my first time running a code. I can’t help but be excited. 

I claim my place at the head of the bed and start setting up my airway equipment. My brain is methodically running through the ACLS algorithms I have memorized.

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Cry for a Stranger

I cried for a stranger today.

Her sister sat expressionless next to her lifeless body, and when I walked into the room, she began crying.

My tears swell. I tell her how sorry I am, and how brave she was. She tells me that her sister died “so quickly and peacefully” and that “it was her time to go.” I am grateful she surrendered to the inevitable.

I leave to complete

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Please Don’t Ask

 
“Please don’t ask” was my silent plea to my patient as I entered the exam room. I knew if she did, I would start crying, and not for the first time that day.
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