I first learned about 55-word short stories during my Narrative Medicine course in medical school. Upon learning, I quickly realized the storytelling power of a few words. Many patient encounters, often brief, have left me with a lasting impression. I reflect on these moments by capturing the dialogue, gestures or quiet observations that occur when caring for patients. With brevity, I capture the learning, growth and connections we experience in medicine.
Difficulty stooling, excruciating pain. MRI revealed possible metastatic lesions. “I’m not ready to go.” We talked about fear, faith, and family. History of methamphetamine use disorder. “I was real lost when I was young.” Now he coached others battling the same. A second chance at life. He winced in pain. Give him another chance, God.
The Anti-Narc Doctor
Breast cancer. Exquisitely tender lymphedema. Not on any painkillers. A slip in the cracks. Her only solution: street fentanyl injections. Today, a new doctor prescribed her controlled narcotics. “I feel like I’m finally talking to a doctor.” Can disappointment turn into pain over time? Her cries echoed the hall. Seems so. Our system failed her.
An elderly patient lay in bed while her older sister sat at her bedside each morning. In the hospital, her sister was her eyes, ears, and voice. At home, her caretaker. She was her second mother and best friend. “She has been so strong through the cancer,” her sister said. “You too,” I reminded her.
The Nurse Wife
One — two — three, she counts before we sit him up. I auscultate his lungs. She lays him down, caressing his face. She jots his vitals and gives her own overnight report. She puts on a smile. But I sense the worry in her voice. A full-time wife and retired nurse. Vow and duty. Intertwined forever.
Obstetrics: to stand opposite, to teach beside
New baby, about to arrive. The resident physician and I form a plan. It’s almost time. The attending watches his student, now the teacher. My hand on the baby, the resident’s hand on mine. Mother pushes, he teaches. I listen as life brings new life. Someday, I will teach someone else. A circle. Baby’s here!
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