Tag Archives: med school

Nothing else looks like this

“Nothing else looks like this. I’m sorry, ALS is the only disease that does this.”

That’s what I said when trying to convince my patient’s husband. The three of us were like motionless statues amidst the hospital ward bustling around us, her lying immobile in bed inside, her husband and I standing outside disagreeing amicably for hours. We were arguing about her “equivocal diagnosis of ALS.” Fighting on one side was his staunch denial and his faith that there could be some overlooked alternative diagnosis. Battling it was us as their medical team and our scientific certainty that this was truly ALS. Continue reading Nothing else looks like this

Making Time

Good timing for today to be the year’s only 25-hour day. One extra hour summoned from seemingly nowhere (nowhen?).

Time is on my mind. These days, I’ve been at NYP Queens again for my Internal Medicine clerkship (affectionately called MEDICINE), which means the hours are inflexible, thanks to the 5:30 am shuttle (again) and the chronically traffic-choked commute back at 5:45 pm. Add to that evening lectures, a bunch of written assignments, and studying for the hardest shelf exam of them all, and I get a time during which when time is in short, short order. Continue reading Making Time

When Full Code is Wrong

A family brought a Mrs. M to the ER on the last day of her life. They shouldn’t have.

Her home hospice nurse told them not to. Mrs. M was 80, with metastatic cancer and on palliative care, resting peacefully at home when she became feverish and confused. The nurse told her four adult children that she should stay at home and made comfortable to pass in the tranquility of home surrounded by loving family. Continue reading When Full Code is Wrong

Bad Brains

On the train back down from upstate yesterday, across from me sat a mom and her son — about 6 months old. Per the suggestion of my critical care professor and because I’m rotating with pediatric neurology right now, I observed the young boy as he cried from hunger, fed a bit, then played with his mom. I thought of the thoughts and neural connections buzzing through his brain in that moment. His curious eyes darted around studying the faces of passengers, realizing that they’re faces and we’re people. He squinted when light shone through the autumn trees whistling by outside the window. He grasped at hair and clothes and with his clumsy fingers, instinctively bringing them to his mouth. As his mom lifted him by the shoulders, he pulled his legs underneath him to strengthen his hip and knee extensors. He heard his mom’s teasing voice chanting “I’m gonna get ya! I’m gonna get ya!” and his brain captured this pattern of vibrating air molecules as samples of language for future decoding. Baby brains are outright miracles. Continue reading Bad Brains

Imagination in the Stroke Ward

“What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models… None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.”

So writes Anthony Doerr in “All the Light We Cannot See,” a brilliant novel that won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s the book I’ve been reading this week and (sadly) the only novel I’ve read all year. Between my shifts at the hospital, I crack open the covers, unfurl the pages, and fall into the universe that Doerr spins with his sharp sentences. I follow two characters, two unusual children in extraordinary circumstances: Werner, a scrawny albino orphan prodigy conscripted by the Nazis for his mastery of radios and who fights to retain his humanity; and Marie-Laure, a blind French girl hiding in a walled seaside city who becomes a vulnerable courier and a dreamer.  For hours at a time, the book’s words transport me into the vividly bleak fictional realities of two children in the maelstrom of World War II. Continue reading Imagination in the Stroke Ward