Emily Fu (2 Posts)
Warren Alpert Medical School
Emily is a medical student, crossword fiend, and backpacker. She likes reading poetry, cleaning her bicycle, and talking about medical education. Email her! She'd love to chat.
During my last visit home, my mother waited less than an hour before showing me her medical records. She offered them up the way I’d once presented my middle-school report cards, steering the papers across our kitchen table between bowls of peppercorn chicken and eggplant until they slid to a stop in front of me. Looking at them made my head spin, as they were written almost entirely in Chinese.
Sitting across the table from me was a woman with four children, whose hesitancy towards their foreign doctor mirrored my own. I still wonder sometimes how I ended up in that tiny cinderblock-and-corrugated-metal church in Bolivia, not even finished with my first year of medical school. At the time, I felt frantic.
The gray pickup truck rattled along the rocky path, careening back and forth on a steep incline that reached for the snow-capped peak masked by clouds. While tires slid and kicked up trails of dust that diffused into the mist surrounding us, I was still able to catch a glimpse of Chimborazo, a volcanic pyramid of Ecuador, through pockets of clarity in that atmosphere. Soaring at breathtaking elevations of over 20 thousand feet, Chimborazo is a point near the equator where one can be closest to the sun while standing on Earth.
In the rest of the house, the noise of the party is deafening: the clink of glasses, the sizzle of burgers on the grill, the excited cries of relatives reunited after long absences. But in the bright light of the kitchen, Mark is talking to me without sound. He presses his right hand over his left then moves up its length, separating his thumb from the rest of his fingers as he goes replicating the open and shut motions of a jaw. “This is the sign for cancer,” he says.
It’s easy to see how the hospital can be an intimidating place for a patient. Being alone, in an unknown environment, covered only a flimsy cloth gown, and surrounded by strangers can make anyone anxious. Now, imagine not knowing what these strangers are saying to you, about you. Imagine these strangers cannot understand a single word you say. I had just finished up a previous case in the OR with the orthopedics team when the …
“Últimamente me he sentido muy cansado,” starts explaining Genaro. He has been feeling tired, but also weak, and unable to concentrate on things. Since he arrived in Providence a couple of years ago from the highlands of Guatemala, he has been doing hard work — manual labor like construction and carpeting, working long hours for little pay. “Se me olvidan las cosas,” he continues. He has been forgetful, and has had trouble holding on to …