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Mind Boggling

“Eleven years ago, I wasn’t as old as I am now—which is a funny thing!” Virginia Mitchell tells me.

She’s dressed as if she picked her clothes using yellow Benjamin Moore paint samples: bright canary shirt, mustard pants, daffodil leather shoes. Last week’s theme was purple, topped off with a violet scarf; another time it was green, accented with a chartreuse ascot.

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The Things We Carry

It has been said that we in health care carry a backpack of sorrows.

There is a sanctity to being on the inside, trusted to care for people in their weakest, darkest and most vulnerable moments. When it feels like control is gone, we steady our voices even when we too feel scared.

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Even Now

Two decades ago, during my first week
as an X-ray tech, I watched a boy die.
He was, thankfully, not a boy I knew
or loved but one I’d gone to X-ray.

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Aftermath

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

It’s 8:00 pm.

I’m staring at the IV tubing. We forgot to stop the fluids.

I’m standing in the resuscitation room alongside the naked, broken body of a teenage male. Unable to break my gaze on that dripping IV line, thinking, We’re going to flood him.

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Things My Wife Left in the ICU

A pacemaker and defibrillator

Sheets pressed hard with suffering

Seven fingers and one arm, gangrenous dead

Unknown liters of blood

Failed kidneys

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Early Morning. Again

I sit on the sofa,
alone in the sunroom,
stirring a cup of mocha-coffee,

Soon it turns cold.
Your mother’s quilt, an heirloom
pulled off our bed,

wraps my shoulders.
The corner touching my cheek
is soaked in wild grief,

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Casseroles and Conversations

2017 was a heartbreaking year for our family.
To start things off, my wife’s parents–both of them!–were diagnosed with terminal illnesses. We spent the next few months immersed in the painful, complex process of transitioning them to home hospice care and beginning to face and grieve the prospect of their deaths.
In the midst of this, Hurricane Harvey began heading towards Houston, our hometown. My wife, Marsha, drove to her parents’ ranch, south of the

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Exit Interview


Tamra Travers ~

“I’m graduating and leaving our clinic in June.”

Over and over again, in the months leading up to this transition, I break this news to my primary-care patients. I have developed many meaningful relationships with patients over my past three years of training as a family-medicine resident in a large, urban health center in Manhattan. But now it is time to leave and move on.

The fluorescent lights

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The Patient I Didn’t Want


Krithika Kavanoor ~

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

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Hunting

Scott Newport ~

“Seriously?” began Amy’s text, which popped up on my iPhone one blustery November morning.

“How do you know?” she went on. “Why don’t I feel him with me?”

I had no idea how to answer.

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Remembering the Beginning


Jacqueline Dooley ~

I was unprepared
for the feel of your hair pulling free
with every brushstroke.
I wasn’t up to autumn
from the side of your hospital bed.
It seemed too much
for the universe to ask.
But, like you, I was choiceless
as I drove through November streets
the colors, drained and faded,
like your face when the chemo went

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What’s Left Over

Ruth Bavetta ~

One and a half tubes of smörgåskaviar, most
of a jar of blueberry jam, a full jar of lingonberries.
Four sets of blue plaid pajamas–God forbid
I should have gotten him red. Six pairs
of reading glasses, going back
in five-year increments. Hearing-aid
batteries stashed by the lamp.
Three packages of adult diapers.
Our marriage certificate.
The rest of the

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