"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
Joanne M. Clarkson
Assume pain, I tell them, the young, the
minimum-waged, those who work the midnight
shift with no chance for stars. We lean
over the bed of a 93-year-old man with advanced
Parkinson's disease. His face is
frozen, even his eyes don't seem to move
unless you watch the sheen. These
student aides are to turn him, bathe and lotion
his stiffened limbs. After they roll him silent
and awkward as a rug, I notice the bandage
discolored with seepage, covering his left
calf. The notes had not mentioned
On the Friday before Christmas, I received an unusual gift.
Like any job, being a primary-care physician has both challenges and rewards. The challenges are many, and the rewards are often fleeting--a smile or a "thank you" from a patient or coworker, for instance. And I've found that being a teacher of medical students and residents brings an additional layer of rewards and challenges.
One Friday before Christmas, these arrived in an especially potent mix.
Dr. Peterson, the radiation oncologist, gets right to the point.
"The medical center's tumor board has concluded that your cancer is inoperable, incurable and untreatable," he says flatly. "Any chemotherapy or radiation treatments would be palliative in nature."
He begins explaining the reasons behind the board's verdict, but everything he's saying washes out. My mind stopped working as soon as I heard the words "incurable" and "palliative." I am sliding into shock.
Dr. Peterson pauses.
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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