The Aftergift

“… and maybe then you’ll hear the words I’ve been singing;
Funny, when you’re dead how people start listen’n…”
If I Die Young (2010)
by The Band Perry

It was in the fall of 2015 that I received a call from a Mrs. Jones.  She went on to detail how her husband, Robert, had died from cancer and donated his body to our anatomy lab in 2006.  She further explained that she and her children had finally come to terms with his passing and now, 9 years later, were finally ready to spread his ashes at the family cemetery plot.  She stated that she wanted to hold a ceremony and perhaps have the students that worked on her husband write something about their experience that could be read at the service…
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After the Loss of a Patient: Reflection and Connection Through Prose

By Hedy S. Wald

Lean machine of prose, stripped down to the essence, and a power-packed way to care for the caregiver… this was my experience of the 55-word story genre1 at a writing seminar. While I had some experience writing haiku, I was generally accustomed to reflective narratives3 as “story” so was nothing short of surprised when a compact 55-word prose “small jewel”2 about a patient who touched my heart and soul spontaneously emerged onto the paper.  It chilled me to the bone and warmed my heart. I was asked to read it aloud for the attendees – the hush afterward was a moment of sacred silence…
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Anatomy from the Inside: An Anatomist’s Experience as Patient

By Robert Frysztak

Many stories have been written by physicians describing their personal experiences as a patient. But I cannot recall reading a similar perspective from a research scientist or medical educator, one who has intimate knowledge of anatomy and physiology paralleling or exceeding that of most physicians.  I would like to share with you my personal story of my recent encounter with the medical community.

I was diagnosed 18 months ago with a medical condition that, initially, was thought to be relatively common. My family physician referred me to a specialist that started me on the standard conservative approach of a prescription medication.  After 6 months of trying the various medications available with no sign of improvement, the scientist in me began asking questions.  I wondered how long a normal patient would continue to follow along with their doctor’s recommendations if they were not having success.  I explored all the medical research I could find on my condition.  I reached out to colleagues here at the medical school, and even spoke to students and residents who were working with other doctors in the field.  At this point, I decided to change doctors.  My new physician really listened to me, looked at my research, and together we decided to try a new treatment regimen.  This type of collaboration is probably rare, with most patients accepting both the doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan without question…

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Lessons Learned from a Beatbox Heart

By Tim Lahey

Two days ago, Jimmy stuck a used needle into the soft skin of his forearm, and released 20 milligrams of black tar heroin and a bolus of bacteria into his blood.

The bacteria floated from vein to artery as he nodded, eventually sticking themselves to the ragged edge of his aortic valve.  There they multiplied and burrowed until each systole whipped a two-centimeters of snot back and forth in his atrium.

Fevers came first, which Jimmy ignored while buying more black tar at a rest stop on I-91.  A day later, little red stigmata appeared on the palms of his hands as plugs of snot lodged in small vessels there.

When he couldn’t breathe, Jimmy went to the ER.  My medical student and I met him there as he shook in bed.  A snarl of IV lines snaked under the covers.

Jimmy gave one-word answers to my questions, and did not open his eyes…
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Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl, a poem by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR

This poem is metaphorically from the cutting room floor, meaning that it was cut from the original manuscript for my novel-in-verse, Under the Mesquite.  My editor at Lee & Low Books, Emily Hazel, and I both agreed that given the nature of the manuscript, our intended audience, and the gentle treatment of the cancer in the rest of the narrative, this poem was too complex and a bit too graphic to be included in the final draft.  To this day “POPOCATEPETL AND IZTACCIHUATL” remains one of my most beloved poems.  I share it with you as an ofrenda, a humble offering, in gratitude for the wonderful reception, support, and warmth bestowed upon me during my author visit to the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine on October 25, 2016.  I hope you enjoy it.
All my best,
Guadalupe Garcia McCallRead More »

Memento Mori- Reflecting on my Death and the Education of Medical Students

By Laura Creel

As part of their undergraduate medical education, students discuss end-of-life care; they hear lectures about valuing the lives and deaths of future patients; they are instructed in the legal issues surrounding advance directives and care planning.  They see death, too—see it in the cadavers that they incise, see it in patients who die surrounded by family members and in patients who die alone.  Sometimes these experiences with death are personal; many times the experiences are stripped of emotion because they occur in clinical environments.  But although students see death in medical school, some recent research shows that approximately half of residents do not feel well-prepared to deal with the deaths of patients.[i]

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Wait for it

By Tim Lahey

At 94, my patient V. was funny and flirtatious.  Her French accent made even the name of her life-threatening fungal infection sound poetic.

“DEE-seminated HEESTO-plasmo-sees,” she said, “Oaf the skin.”

I smiled.

I also admitted her to the hospital because our treatments were not working.  I hoped intensified wound care and antibiotics and a biopsy would help us turn things around.  A couple of days in the hospital would also, I knew, give us a chance to talk about whether all of this, any of this, was what she wanted…
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