In high school, I was obsessed with wearing only vintage clothing. After hours of painstakingly searching every clothing rack at Goodwill, I would find a well-worn baseball jersey or an elaborately bejeweled Christmas sweater. I felt a sense of immense pride in reclaiming someone else’s memories — their winning games, their holiday parties – in an attempt to express my “uniqueness”.
She and I experienced such extremes of strangerhood and intimacy in only 72 hours. But what a privilege it was, to be there for her when she had no one else, to advocate for her, to go a little (or a lot) above and beyond on her behalf, to see the inter-workings of this stranger’s life: this is why I chose medicine.
Little girl / in the pink hospital gown / sits in a windowless room.
“That’s rubbish.” My new friend — I’ll call her Sylvia — lay supine on her bed, staring bleary-eyed at the ceiling. White bedsheets swathed her long, gaunt limbs, and her sickly pallor startled me.
“Knife.” One of the surgical nurses slapped it into his hand, and Dr. James drew the scalpel quickly down the woman’s betadine-covered belly. So little fanfare preceded that moment that I almost missed it.
Sometimes the best intervention is not a medication but rather a listening ear, not a vaccination but rather a shoulder to cry on, not a screening test, but instead an advocate.
Dan and I mimicked ducklings as we followed our senior resident, Tassia, single file down the stairs on our way back to the resident room. As we neared the bottom, we crossed paths with another medicine resident leading two medical students playing the same roles as Dan and I.
It was a Wednesday morning. The air was crisp. The sun graced us with brilliance. I made my way to the emergency room where I was working for a two-week period on the cardiology consult service.
In 2006, Daisy Goodman first experienced a patient disclosing a narcotics addiction. A certified nurse midwife working in obstetrics, Goodman had had years of experience working with pregnant mothers to cultivate a healthy pregnancy and birth.
I found them for you. / Your blonde little girls who grew into women / Then grew apart from you. / I found them.
As another ACA repeal looms in the near future — after ACHA and BCRA — the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (Graham-Cassidy) legislation makes me think back to a patient I took care of a few months ago.
I don’t really know why I stayed with you. All I know is that I could not leave.