On the first day of my neonatology elective I met Aaron*, a one-day-old infant born to a mother with a history of intravenous drug abuse. The mother was reportedly attending a methadone clinic during her pregnancy to address her opioid addiction, but her urine drug screen was positive for fentanyl.
A pair of Navy socks on pale, scrawny legs — that’s what I remember about him. 0300 hours in the ED and the umpteenth “What brings you in tonight, sir?” and suddenly all the patients start to meld together.
One of the visions of in-Training has been to raise awareness of the significant issues affecting medical students across the United States and internationally. Yet, when we focus solely on our needs, we often fail to see and appreciate the patient perspective.
On inpatient pediatrics, I helped care for a young boy admitted following urological complications after surgery. I first heard about him during morning sign-out: he was in severe pain, and his Foley catheter kept getting clogged and needed to be flushed repeatedly.
“There must be a better way to make a living than this!” / Slam. / Silence, except for the persistent heartbeat. / The beat of the ticking time bomb, the dying heart.
Sunrise on the psych unit. A tentative, yawning flicker, a wash of tired fluorescence, and the hallway shudders to life—or something approximating life anyway.
I met Rosa on my first rotation. My clinical year began with overnight shifts on the obstetrics and gynecology service at an affiliate hospital. My second night was halfway over when, at two in the morning, Minnie and I were summoned to the emergency department.
It can be difficult to fully appreciate the events that transpire on a busy transplant surgery service, and as a fledgling third year student on my first rotation, I’d often find myself in stimulus overload — like a five year old who stops to look at every flower on a walk with their parents.
The paratrooper shook as they descended upon him. / Prepared to interrogate him with hollow-point questions
As a medical student deeply interested in education, books, and writing, I try to read widely, and am always looking for reading material at the intersection of these interests. Thus when a friend of mine described Robert Coles as a gifted writer, one who placed great emphasis on the value of stories to the practicing clinician, he seemed like the perfect fit. I had previously read some of his shorter pieces, but my friend suggested I read The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination.
I first heard the click, click of her black stilettos / Her heels narrowed to a tiny point that seemed to pierce the ground. / I imagined the floor whimpering at every step she took / The faces of terrified tiles reflecting in glistening heels
I come from a family of repeaters. We repeat the questions that had unsatisfactory answers, the jokes that got particularly good receptions, the requests willfully ignored, but most of all, we repeat the stories.