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

Teeter Totter

I am the only adult child of an alcoholic nurse. Well, he was a nurse, until alcohol took everything. He stopped going to work because they kept sending him home due to alcohol withdrawals. He didn’t renew his nursing license, and that was how he ultimately lost his career. He also lost his house, his car, his relationships, and his health.

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If It Kills Me, It Kills Me

He was my doppelganger: where I could go if I chose drink over life. I was his advocate, supporter, commiserator. I supported him in his choice to drink himself to death, and it was one of the hardest and most meaningful journeys I have had with any of my clients. I will always be proud of the fact that I was able to bring together a team that supported his right to live life on

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I Confess

I confess. I would drive drunk on nights I went clubbing. I’d dance until my knees hurt and drink until the brand of gin in my drinks didn’t matter. With my windows rolled down, I hoped fresh air conjured some semblance of sobriety, in case I encountered a cop. I’d bellow my favorite songs, head hanging out the window. Me. An R.N. In December 1996, I walked into my urban ICU, before color-coded uniforms, wearing

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Irony

“Two men walk into a bar…” You know that joke, don’t you, with its endless variations? The one that is followed by a groan, often told by your beloved dad and uncles? Well, I have a different one to tell. Two women walked separate routes in life: painful, exhausting, circuitous. One was a model-turned-realtor, the other a doctor. They knew each other once, although they were never friends, and then they were separated by geography

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Amazing What a Naive Medical Student Can Do

I was a third-year medical student on a scholarship trying to make a few extra bucks in order to survive. So I applied for a job as the overnight lab technician at a local community hospital. My job required that I go to the ER when they called for labs, draw the blood from the patient, take the specimen back to the lab, run the tests, and then go back to the ER and deliver

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Saying No

I live a “say no” life — as to drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol. Yet on my twenty-first birthday, I deviated from my rule and, with a group of fellow graduate students, sat at a bar and imbibed one celebratory drink after another. I cannot remember what the bar looked like, but I do recall that it was loud — filled with voices and music — and that it got progressively louder with each drink I

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An Editor’s Invitation: Drinking

At my college, if you were male, drinking beer earned you acceptance, admiration and praise. For some reason, drinking many beers and capping it off by violently throwing up was seen as manly. I’m not much of a drinker, which took its toll on my college status. To this day, I’m happy sharing just one beer with my wife I don’t consider this a matter of virtue, it’s simply the way I’m wired. Neither of

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Lost in a Frigging Spaghetti Maze

Several times a month, I’d find a patient wandering the lobby of my medical building, looking very lost. One afternoon, hurrying from work to beat the rush hour traffic, I came upon an elderly gentleman staring at the office directory on the wall. I approached him and spoke softly, “Help you find something?” He grinned, “Thanks, honey, but this place’s a frigging spaghetti maze. Got here early cause it’s my first time. Looking for Dr.

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Confronting a Colleague’s Loss of a Child

It’s too painful to confront a colleague’s loss of a child. Three or more decades ago, we physicians had more difficulty dealing with death and dying than in more recent times. But it is still very difficult. We are particularly at a loss when it comes to the death of a physician’s child. And it is even more challenging when it is a colleague, a member of the hospital staff’s child who has died.

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