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Caught in the Middle

One day several decades ago, after morning rounds, Dr. Prescott slipped into the ER where I was the cardiac nurse. She did something a doctor would never do: She placed her leather medical bag on a stretcher instead of on the desk. Her eyes locked onto mine.

“I’m having a heart attack,” she said calmly.

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This Isn’t Worth It

While sitting on the exam room table in my cardiologist’s office, I began thinking about the many years we’ve had these semiannual appointments. I’ve had not one but two emergency open-heart surgeries.

In a few months, it will be exactly nineteen years since my first surgery, I thought. That means I’ll be starting my twentieth bonus year of life!

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What It’s Like to Disappear

One morning seven years ago, I disappeared.

I started the day by swimming laps in the pool at the Northwestern University sports and recreation center in Evanston, IL, as I’ve done for at least fifteen years.

I have long suffered chronic muscle spasms and pain in my neck, hands and feet, and my daily swims, pain medications and mindfulness meditation make up part of a very helpful therapeutic regimen.

At around 9:00 am, having finished

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The White Orchid

Leaving my office this evening, I see the white orchid’s last petal struggling to hold on. With its faded grey veins and withered brown edges, it looks like a bit of old, crumpled paper. Even the sunlight streaming through the window doesn’t brighten it. Tenderly, I reach down to touch its softness.

The touch transports me back to when I first met Shirley, who gave me the orchid. I remember it vividly.

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Every Doctor’s Nightmare


Bobak Akhavan ~

I was an intern, doing a rotation in the coronary-care unit (CCU) of a large urban hospital. It was very challenging: The patients had complex medical issues, and my fellow residents and I were given lots of responsibility for their care. Still, I felt I was finally getting the hang of residency.

One of the first patients I saw was Mrs. Smith, a middle-aged woman who had come to

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Christmas Story

Ned Towle ~

Christmas Day 2012

This Christmas is different. My wife and I are spending the day alone, as our two children and four grandchildren came over yesterday for the big celebration.

It’s 10:00 in the morning. I have just completed a nine-mile run and am sitting on the living-room floor. My wife, Linda, is on the sofa with her computer.

I feel unusually tired; rather than take a shower,

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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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