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Tag: doctor as patient

What’s Wrong With You?

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

The words cut through my mind and hit me in the gut. My fragile fifteen-year-old ego splintered like a glass cup slipping through fingers onto hardwood.

Tears welled up, and my lips pursed, ready to respond. But I couldn’t find the words—for in that moment, I truly knew that I was broken, I was ugly, I was wrong.

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“How Long Have You Had These Symptoms, Doctor?”

“How long have you had these symptoms?”

Dr. Quantrell’s tone was kind and inquisitive, but with the CT scan on the computer between us displaying a two-centimeter kidney stone, I couldn’t help hearing: How long have you been ignoring this problem?

Much has been written about the experience of doctor as patient. Like many of my colleagues before me, I’d fallen into the trap of trying to diagnose myself before calling my family physician.

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Our Shared Journey

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

It took a terrifying and life-changing experience of being different for me to realize a fundamental truth: I’m the same as everyone else.

This truth has redefined my goals and reshaped the way I practice medicine.

At age twenty-nine, during my third and final year of internal-medicine residency, I received a diagnosis of a rare and malignant brain cancer called anaplastic astrocytoma. Quite

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Brain Scan

I slide into the MRI machine.
Sleds slide downhill, propelled by their own weight;
my movement’s horizontal, made through means

outside of my control: a man in green
scrubs bops a button, turning me to freight
that’s fed into the MRI machine.

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Burnt

You never forget the smell of charred human flesh. It permeates your skin, your hair, your nose and your mind. It never leaves. You may try to describe it, but there is no equivalent. Not barbecue, not melted plastic, not wood; the smell of the flesh of a once-living human being stands on its own. Even after thirty years, my mind holds the smell in its broken places.

They said it was a Molotov cocktail

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Silenced

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded an honorable mention in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

As a maternal/fetal medicine specialist for twenty-four years, I’d always felt that speaking to my patients, peers and the hospital staff was one of my God-given talents. I’m very good at giving bad news to expectant parents about their fetal diagnosis—or I used to be.

All of that changed six years ago, when I had a thyroidectomy for

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My Doctor Joe

Winter 1961

I recall Dr. Ulrich making a house call that night to our residential shoebox on Longview Avenue in Akron, Ohio. My parents were renting the pint-size place. My mother loathed visiting cemeteries and talking about death, so I suspect she felt edgy living across the street from the roomy Sherbondy Hill Cemetery.

That freezing night in 1961, I lay in my parents’ bed, a big bed that swallowed up my little-boy body. I wanted to

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My Superpower

When I was six years old, my parents and I learned that I have type 1 diabetes.

As I grew up, revealing my diagnosis felt awkward and burdensome. Whenever I was in a public place and checked my blood sugar by pricking my finger, I often had to explain my illness to others, which led to unwelcome questions. To avoid this, I developed a habit of mentioning my disease swiftly, as if pulling off a

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Borderlines

Editor’s Note: This piece was awarded second place in the Pulse writing contest, “On Being Different.”

When I started as an intern at a regional Australian hospital in the late Nineties, there was a patient—let’s call her Laura—who was notorious among the emergency-department staff.

Laura had sliced up much of her available skin over the years and had moved on to swallowing cutlery and razor blades. She’d had numerous operations to remove the silverware in

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Love, Marriage and Parkinson’s

In 2015, while walking with my wife, Jody, in our neighborhood, I suddenly found myself bent over and taking tiny, rapid, repetitive steps. I knew I was moving too fast, but could not stop myself. Jody thought I was kidding—until the moment I fell down on a neighbor’s lawn.

A passing driver slowed down to ask if I was okay. I was all right, but thought the experience odd.

I’d never heard the word “festination”

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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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A Real Family?

A few years ago, a Chicago-area fertility clinic ran a series of radio ads at the same early hour each morning. For weeks, I woke to a woman’s energetic voice cutting through the fog of my semiconsciousness, announcing her gratitude to the center’s reproductive specialists. “Without them,” she proclaimed brightly, “my baby wouldn’t have my blue eyes and my husband’s wide smile.”

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