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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My Patient

By Suzanne Minor

The student used the phrase “my patient” six times during the brief patient interaction: “I don’t like my patients to not exercise.”  “I like it when my patients eat healthy.”  “I like it when my patients take their medications” and so on.  Many students use this phrase occasionally, but this was striking.  I wondered what his motivation was.  Was he nervous?  Or did he think the patients were his?  After the interaction, I debriefed with him, asking him what went well and what he could improve. He did not bring up his use of “my patient” so I did.  He was unaware of his saying “my patient” and could not reflect on why he was doing so.  I asked him what he thought this phrase might mean to the patient.

“The patient”, he queried, “what does that have to do with it?”  I was frustrated, somewhat aghast that this third-year student, steeped in patient-centered interviewing throughout his first two years of school, missed that the patient had something to do with their own care and that the phrase “my patient” might claim ownership of another person or their attributes, such as soul, physical being, or responsibilities…
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