It is day 30+ of New York City’s COVID-19 pandemic. Fire trucks and flashing lights fill the street fronting the hospital emergency department where I’m a physician. The scene erupts into applause and sirens. We doctors, nurses, physician assistants, techs, housekeepers and clerks wave back and flash our individual cardboard letters spelling “Thank You!” It is so good to be outside and, for a few minutes, unafraid. Inside, our
If you had told me thirty years ago,
when I took call on endless sleepless nights
on incandescent AIDS wards full of fear
on which I tried to do the healing work
of drawing blood and packing leaking wounds
and viewing films of microbes gone berserk
in lungs and brains of patients wasted frail
to postpone certain death from HIV,
if you had told me then
Ingrid Forsberg ~
It’s 10:00 am on a Monday in June. I’m the nurse practitioner on duty in a convenience care clinic housed in a corner drugstore in urban Chicago.
Sunlight is pouring through the huge storefront windows when my first patient of the day walks in. He’s in his late twenties, muscular, crew-cut. He looks like someone who’s used to being in charge.
Right now, though, he looks anxious. He’s pale,
In 1983, the community hospital where I worked did not yet use the acronym AIDS. We used another one–FUO, for fever of unknown origin–which was emblazoned in marker on a red card on the doorjambs of certain private rooms. These rooms each had an anteroom with a sink and a hamper. This is where the donning and removal of protective suits took place. In this 4-foot-by-6-foot space between the hall and the patient’s room, the garbage
as if into a run
for the Olympic bobsled team,
into the rails
of his hospital bed,
microphones, a plot
between his doctor and Visa
to keep the cure
for AIDS secret.
as he yanked
his IV line,
about truth serum,
he won’t tell,
we can’t make him
He had been a nurse, took care
I have never told this story to anyone.
It all started one night about ten years ago, three months into my internship. I was on call, having just admitted a man with a possible meningitis.
He now lay curled up in fetal position on the bed in front of me, looking thin and ill. Preparing to administer a lumbar puncture (a diagnostic test that involves removing fluid from the spinal canal), I gently
Rohit walked into our HIV-testing center in South Mumbai one busy morning. I was struck by how stylish he looked in his jeans and casual linen shirt, very different than the usual patients who visit our sprawling public hospital campus. He paced back and forth in a corner, looking at his watch and whispering into a cell phone.
I guessed that he’d chosen this crowded setting because of the anonymity it afforded;
Adam Phillip Stern
Some sentences should never be interrupted.
“We have the results of your HIV test,” the attending physician had begun. But fate interrupted with a seemingly endless loudspeaker announcement:
“May I have your attention, please? Would the following patients please report to the nurse’s station for morning medications….”
Nothing about Benjamin’s story was ordinary. He had been voluntarily admitted to an inpatient psychiatry unit after reporting many symptoms of
Editor’s Note: Jennifer Reckrey is a family medicine resident in New York City. Each week, while she was an intern, she recorded some of her experiences as a brand-new doctor.
I have been his primary doctor for the entire three weeks he has been on the hospital floor. Sometimes he drives me crazy. Once or twice I’ve asked my senior resident to take over for a bit so I can hide out, catch
At twenty, I started working the HIV
ward, midnight to morning. Left my husband
sleeping, mouth-open to the air, to
drive through the dark body of the city.
Every shift, the warning about infections.
Me sliding on booties, disposable
gown and gloves. Even through the mask,
you could smell decay, the way viruses
swept through bodies. I did what was needed:
held hands through double-gloves, took blood
or confessions when I could,