"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
Valhalla Over Connacht
We ran from an outbreak of polio
Abandoned the Bronx for a summer hideaway
In the shadow of the Catskill Mountains
Each day we traipsed craggy trails
Stooped low beneath clear skies
Plucked mounds of dark blues
From bushes bursting with ripe fruit
Filled our baskets to overflow
It should have been all this:
Sunshine on eight-year-old skin
Fresh air on innocent girl soil
Thoughts of jam on toast for breakfast
Happy days of laughs with the family
When anxiety overwhelms the mind
Blueberry picking equates to worries
Of prickly thorns and bee stings
Sunburns and infected blisters
Rattlesnake bites and botulism in jelly jars
Everything, a gravediggers’ paradise
I need a new stethoscope. I have to wrap my fingers around the fissures in the tubing to make this one work.
For me, these days, listening to the patient's chest is more a ritual than a means of diagnosis. After twenty years as a primary-care internist, I now work full-time in hospice and palliative care. I spend more time listening to stories than to hearts and lungs. Even so, there's something about leaning over and finding the right spot on the chest that makes me feel like a real doctor and helps my patients know that they're being cared for.
Every morning I put this stethoscope around my neck and walk down the hall of our inpatient hospice unit, and every morning, I forget until I touch the first patient. I wonder about the silence in my ears, and then I remember and close my fingers over the stiff, unresponsive black tubing.
I am in my twenties.
I am a student in dental school. My seven classmates and I have gathered, notebooks and pens in hand, for the first day of our ten-day rotation at the Veteran's Hospital oncology department.
Dr. Steele, a published expert in oral cancer, instructs us to follow him to the outpatient clinic. Some of those he'll examine are initial consultations; others are follow-up exams. All are U.S. veterans. Many are homeless alcoholics, whose lifestyle, we're told, predisposes them to oral cancers.
"I want each of you to take a look at this lesion on the right lateral border ventral side of the tongue," says Dr. Steele in resonant tones. We bob our heads to find the right line of vision. The lesion is nothing more than a small red spot. Dr. Steele applies dye to the spot, examines the patient's head and neck lymph nodes, then dismisses him.
"Well, what do you think?" he asks.
a treasury of compelling stories and poems.
Includes The Resilient Heart , Babel: The Voices of a Medical Trauma and Confessions of a Seventy-Five-Year-Old Drug Addict. Foreword by Maureen Bisognano, President of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
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