"I don't just read Pulse, I adore it." --Donald Berwick MD
In Plain Sight #4
White coat, sterile gloves
my instrument dangling
but she finally died
after such a struggle--the young
always struggle so--
I listened to her chest
till it stopped then clicked
off the machine.
It sighed for us all as the air
drained out. And the moon
was still low in the sky
so large, so round--this
is a shape I know well--
and it hung there like a silver disc
auscultating the earth...
But I could no longer listen
as I sat on a night lawn
One cold February morning during my third year of medical school, I walked through the entrance of the rural hospital where I was doing a nine-month rotation, and made my way to the nurses' station. Feeling the warmth return to my face, I set down my coat and bag and hung my stethoscope around my neck.
The charge nurse, Barb, waved me to her computer.
"Kristie, you have a patient."
She shuffled through papers, grabbed a blank chart and placed the patient's admission note on top. When she saw the name, her face fell.
"Ah, it's Peggy."
I awoke one Saturday morning to a terribly familiar feeling--a tight, barky cough, fast breathing, severe shortness of breath and burning in my chest. Another severe asthma attack. I knew I was in trouble.
Twenty-three years ago, when I was an internal-medicine resident, I went to be evaluated for recurrent pneumonia. I wound up being diagnosed with cough-variant asthma. Most asthmatic patients wheeze; when my asthma is bad, I cough.
I now realize that I've probably had asthma all my life. When I was a child, though, cough-variant asthma wasn't recognized as a disease, at least not in the small upstate New York town where I was raised. So, instead, I was the "sickly child"--the one who got a cold with a cough that lingered for a month, who missed thirty days of school each year, who was teased for being smaller than the other kids and who, in high-school, coughed furiously after every cross-country running practice.
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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