publishing personal accounts of illness and healing, fostering a humanistic practice of medicine, encouraging health care advocacy

Tree Years

Addeane Caelleigh We used to trade off, she said. He hated trees dying in our living room. I always loved the blue sprucesdecorated on my December birthday But his father fell near theirsdying in their living roomone childhood night.  So we’d have a year with tangled lights, a crooked standhe sometimes helped me put togetherThen a year with presents stacked on the corner table,with no dry needles to sweep. Turn and turn againa solstice pendulum.A ring for

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Ripped From the Headlights

Maureen Picard Robins “Get a notebook,” he said.  Dr. Altman and I stood face to face on the pediatric surgical floor of Columbia-Presbyterian Babies & Children’s Hospital. It was the first week in December. A metal crib–it seemed more like a cage or prison–separated us. In this center space lay my yellow heart: my eight-week-old daughter, wounded by surgery, dulled by morphine, our whispers flying over her. It had been nearly twenty-four hours since Dr.

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A View From Nepal

Caroline Jones The farmer wanted to know why his three-year-old son couldn’t walk or talk.  I sat opposite him in a dark, cold classroom converted into an examination room for a four-day medical clinic last spring in the village of Lapa, high in the Himalayas.  Wind whistled through the stone walls; rain pounded on the tin roof. The room’s single ceiling bulb kept flickering and dying; I had to use a camping headlamp to see

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Running Out of Metaphors

Howard F. Stein His rapidly metastasizing cancerwas not his only problem:He was not only running outof life, he was running out of metaphors.Metaphors had sustained himfor the four months sincethey discovered the spot.He started out losing weight as “The Incredible Shrinking Man”; then he becameGregor Samsa for a while;briefly he was the consumptive Violetta,soon followed by Ivan Ilych.He even remembered Susan Sontag and Solzhenitsyn and so railedat his wasting. He leapedfrom metaphor to metaphor the waya stone skips

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Thanksgiving Reflections

Pulse Writers and Editors Editor’s Note: This Thanksgiving tugs hard at the emotions. While an economic gale roils the world, our freshly chosen captain stands on deck, pointing out a new direction for our battered ship of state. At the same time, each of us has personal joys and sorrows to contemplate. We asked Pulse’s writers and editors to take a moment to share their reflections. This year, I am thankful for my four quirky little

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Hospice

Joanne Wilkinson My patient’s beagle is very quiet. He lies next to the brown leather living-room chair she used to sit in when I would come to see her at home. His nose is down on his paws, and his round eyes look up at me, up at the nurses, the home health aides, the family members who go back and forth between here and the back bedroom. He is very alert, but silent. He

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little black boy

Jimmy Moss little black boysit down.fold your hands into your lapand put your lap into ordernow cry me a little song.sing me a little note about me caring about what you care about,then dream me a little dream.and when your tears turn intooases and exposed riversstand upand pour me a little cupfill it with every broken promiseand the unfulfilled moments ofbelated birthdays and first daysof the school year when yourclothes were unkempt…thentell me a little secretabout

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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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Halloween Horrors

Paul Gross One October evening last year, I went to our local pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my daughter. I made sure to bring Cara’s insurance card because my employer had switched us to a new health plan. I wasn’t sorry about the change. Our prior plan had been operated by incompetents–although they might only have been crooks, I couldn’t be sure–who also managed our flexible spending accounts. These accounts, you may recall,

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In the Taxi to the MRI

Rachel Hadas I try to concentrate on the weather. Everythingdeliquesces into simile.Sleet ticks onto the windshield like a clock.Truth blinks on/off like a stuck traffic signal.It is better to live in the light but the light is flickering.Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak-Poetic paradox understood too lateor maybe just in time. What time is it?A small white poodle in a quilted coatlifts a leg to pee against a hydranton Sixtieth Street,

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