I have learned that patients seek health care services at free clinics for a myriad of reasons and some are atypical. There were specific populations I expected to see: the uninsured, underinsured, undocumented, and those without access to transportation. Yet there were other populations I was more surprised to see, namely patients who had insurance but preferred their experiences at free clinics.
And with scientific advancements came cures and treatments that the healers of antiquity could have never imagined. However, these advances came at the cost of appreciating a holistic approach to health. How pitiful is it when a profession which was once completely focused on healing the whole person must now devote entire conferences and countless seminars to finding ways of injecting that back into both its practitioners and the people they serve? In modern times, this disconnect is often bridged by the chaplaincy and pastoral care team. I understood this when I first reached out to Reverend Johnson. I hoped that she would be able to shed light on her profession as well as on her role in caring for patients.
You call me on a Thursday to tell me / You were diagnosed with leukemia in October.
Each morning, Mr. E had a new concern — too hot, too cold, too dizzy, too stiff. He was admitted for what seemed to be a straightforward heart failure exacerbation, but his echocardiography showed severe hypertrophy in both sides of his heart that the cardiologists described as “concerning for infiltrative cardiomyopathy.” For me, this was intriguing; as a fourth-year medical student with only one year of clinical training under my belt, the autoimmune diseases I’ve come across in actual practice have been few and far between. Mr. E, however, seemed completely uninterested whenever I brought up the amyloidosis they had found on nuclear imaging.
While the professor moved to the next slide, my face visibly blanched. All I could hear was the drowning sound of my own heartbeat thumping in my ears. Is this true? I thought. Nothing we can do? Only five years of survival? Did this apply to my grandpa Baba? But Baba has been sick for six years!
We’re overloaded with so much advice, so many ideas on how to be a better doctor, / how do we decide what to follow and what to ignore?
This is a space / between you and me / where you can simply be
Allowing natural death gives the elderly and terminally ill the opportunity to control the end of their life, providing empowerment and a sense of peace during their time of uncertainty. This patient and her family’s forethought allowed us to provide medications to ease her pain and discomfort. When she closed her eyes for the last time, her body relaxed into the sheets, and I pulled the blanket up to her shoulders. Her family said goodbye, and then I began to perform post-mortem care.
Is medical education doing enough to address future physicians’ abilities to understand the perspectives of their patients? As a medical student, my growing disillusionment begins with medical school and the lack of opportunities afforded to us during our education to discuss matters such as racial inequality.
A mourning sun cries as she tucks away / the night to uncover red and blues / lumps of fabric and skin on gritty sand below.
I am calling for international solidarity and aid for Yemenis who are currently living in the worst conditions imaginable without clean water, food or shelter. Today in Yemen, there is war, an economic crisis, cholera outbreaks, the Chikungunya virus and COVID-19, all in the same country.
“I still feel the same,” she says / after three weeks of ECT. / Monday / Wednesday / Friday —