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

The Real Patient Encounter

In the simulation lab where we trained as medical students, all we had to do was grab a tissue and hand it to the patient. Then, like magic, they would thank us. As if that’s all it takes to suddenly make things better! We also learned to say empathic things like “I know this tough,” “I’m here for you” and “What’s wrong?” And in the simulation lab they worked like magic, too. But now I’m

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Stories on Hold

Ms. Darcey had been my patient for over four years. She was one of those fortunate few who made it to the doctor’s office only for their yearly physical exam. One day she showed up unexpectedly, in a wheelchair, her head tilted to one side. She had arrived at the diagnosis before I could make an attempt.

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Coffee and Miracles

I am sipping the foam off my café latte, holding the cup with both hands because they’re shaking so much. It is early morning and very cold, even for New York, but the waiting room at Mount Sinai Hospital is warm and open to a 10-story atrium courtyard. The Starbucks on the ground floor seems to be the hub of the hospital, as, from the balcony of the waiting room, I watch doctors in scrubs, patients

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The Transition

As a medical student, I would show up to clinic the first day of my rotation and introduce myself to the receptionist. Standing there in the waiting room, conspicuous in my short, white coat, and referring to myself as “the new medical student,” I’d feel the patients’ gaze. The receptionist would wave me to the clinic, and I would sigh with relief.  

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Pity Party

Following eye surgery, I was “sentenced” to two weeks of lying face down. But five days in I know without a doubt that something has gone horribly wrong.

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Deciphering the ER Triage Formula

  I want to know what the formula is. I’m speaking, of course, of the formula that gets one person back into the emergency room to be seen, while another waits and waits with the sick, cranky, disheveled masses.

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Desperate for Change

  It is a mild Sunday afternoon in October, and I am standing in front of a closed reception window, desperate for change. It is the early 1990s, and we don’t yet have cell phones. I have already exhausted my supply of coins, making calls on the public phone hanging on the wall in the ER waiting room. 

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Hope

  Who knows how many voices created the cacophony that filled the waiting room that night? Words, wails and whispers gave sound to the gamut of human experiences and emotions. But as I listened, I heard one clear, unwavering note that floated above the clamor.

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