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Don’t be Afraid to Join Me in the Dark Abyss


This drawing depicts the stark contrast of a woman who is both strong, yet visibly vulnerable as her tears pour off the page. This piece was inspired by a patient who was admitted after an incidental finding of a lab abnormality, which forced her to stay in the hospital for four weeks. When she initially learned of her lab results, she was overwhelmed. Her first question was, “Am I going to die?” but her fears were quickly brushed aside in the focused pursuit of a diagnosis. As days passed, she fell into the dark abyss of medicine. Just as the black lines fight to consume her in the image, she fought for answers in a place that very rarely holds them. The only consistent part of her care was human connection and empathy as she wrestled with the existential uncertainty of her health and life. A month after discharge the patient returned to the hospital in cardiac arrest and passed away the following day. She finally had the answer to her initial question, “Am I going to die?” She had been so scared. She had been so right to be. In her death, there is a lesson: We can study the human body and practice medicine our whole lives, but we will never know our patients better than they know themselves. Do not be afraid to join them in the abyss.

Johanna Balas Johanna Balas (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Rush Medical College


Johanna Balas is a third-year medical student at Rush Medical College in Chicago, Illinois class of 2023. In 2018, she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Bachelor of Science in economics and biology. She enjoys drawing (@jojis.abyss on Instagram), going on hikes, and spending time with loved ones in her free time. After graduating from medical school, Johanna would like to pursue a career in internal medicine in the hopes of becoming a hematologist-oncologist.