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Angels and Phantoms

Joanna Dognin

“Mama,” a little voice pipes from the back seat. “Why is that boy in a chair?” 

The sun is beaming into the car as we sit at a stoplight, waiting to exit a store parking lot. My two-year-old daughter has spotted a young man, barely twenty, who smiles weakly as he rolls by in an electric wheelchair, collecting money for muscular dystrophy.

“He’s in a chair because he needs help moving around,” I

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The Winner

Majid Khan

I pull up on the side of the road on this rainy British summer’s day. The rain doesn’t make it easy to get my doctor’s bag out of the trunk, which I do in a hurry so I can make my way to the house where I’ve been asked to visit a 37-year-old man named Kenneth.

This really isn’t ideal. Now my bag is wet, my papers are wet, my trousers are wet

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The Case of the Screaming Man

Paula Lyons

As everyone knows, the human body has orifices. Occasionally, these become occluded, or occupied, by things that aren’t supposed to be there. Every doctor knows this, as does almost everyone else. Who hasn’t heard, as a child, the cautionary phrase “Don’t stick beans up your nose”?

Human nature being what it is, almost every clinician must deal with foreign objects–flora, fauna–that have been put into places where they don’t belong. Sometimes, though,

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An Intern’s Guilt

Anna Kaltsas

“She’s been here for two months already. She’s very complicated; you’re going to be spending a lot of time with her and her family,” my fellow intern said as she began signing out her patients to me. 

It was my first rotation in the medical intensive care unit, and I was terrified. I was in my first few months as a “real” practicing physician–a title that I still felt uncomfortable with. If a

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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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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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Piece of Work

Jennifer Frank

“You’re a real piece of work!” he spat at me. He was a patient named Martin; I was the supervising physician, trying to role-model for a second-year resident how to conduct a difficult conversation with patients like this. 

So far, not so good.

At first glance, Martin seemed an ordinary-looking older man, with close-cut gray hair and plain-framed eyeglasses. But I was struck by his scowl–he was expecting an argument, perhaps because during

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Each Day, Same Story

Jennifer Reckrey

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

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Wounded Messenger

Jean Howell

I pulled back the plunger, sucking lidocaine from the bottle into the syringe as I prepared to lance Jimmy’s abscess. A voice in my head kept repeating, like a mean-spirited parrot, that I’d never done this procedure before–not even under supervision, and certainly not by myself…

I’d met Jimmy two months earlier. He’d come into our clinic with a fever, shortness of breath, a horrible cough, and a crumpled paper photocopy of a

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First Night Call

Abby Caplin

During my first night on call as an intern, I felt scared. Not just scared–terrified. I was serving on the medical center’s pediatric oncology floor, and medical school hadn’t prepared me for children with cancer. What did I know about cutting-edge chemotherapy regimens? What if a child suddenly developed an overwhelming infection or a seizure triggered by a tumor? Someone would expect me to know what to do.

“It’s okay,” said Brad, the

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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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