Lines of Vision: What Doctors vs Patients See by Catherine Klatzker

Catherine Klatzker's writing has appeared in Emry’s Journal, Tiferet Journal, Lime Hawk Journal, and are forthcoming in mental health anthologies from In Fact Books and Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. She was a Ragdale Foundation writing resident and won Tiferet Journal’s 2014 first prize in nonfiction. Catherine is a recently retired pediatric ICU RN and she has coordinated mindfulness retreats for ten years for professional health caregivers coping with death. Read “What We See When We See Each Other” in the Spring 2015 Intima and more about her work at catherine.klatzker.com.

Catherine Klatzker's writing has appeared in Emry’s Journal, Tiferet Journal, Lime Hawk Journal, and are forthcoming in mental health anthologies from In Fact Books and Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. She was a Ragdale Foundation writing resident and won Tiferet Journal’s 2014 first prize in nonfiction. Catherine is a recently retired pediatric ICU RN and she has coordinated mindfulness retreats for ten years for professional health caregivers coping with death. Read “What We See When We See Each Other” in the Spring 2015 Intima and more about her work at catherine.klatzker.com.

“Jach Dyos b’o’otik”

Things are not what they seem to be in Peter Palmieri’s "Absolution" (Intima, Spring 2014) or in my own "What We See When We See Each Other" (Intima, Spring 2015).

In "Absolution," Aaron Levy is haunted by a severe ten-year-old trauma that convinces him his life’s work hungers to hurt him. His medical student correctly assesses his overarching cynicism, bitterness, and inability to trust. He is closed off to connection with his patients and their families. Aaron Levy’s nighttime dreams reenact his traumatic helplessness, and he seems stuck there.

It’s possible his clinic patient’s mother is borderline and dangerous, just as he says, but that’s all he sees, and the case is closed on her before he attempts genuine connection. It’s probable his Emergency patient is “a train wreck in a snowstorm under an avalanche,” as he says, and sepsis is certain. But that’s all Aaron Levy sees, until the boy’s father utters the fateful phrase that mirrors Aaron’s old ICU trauma word for word, “Jach Dyos b’o’otik,” and his heart opens.

Looking at the patient “…for the first time he could see him…” his formerly healthy toddler self. He recognizes the father’s “unfathomable love,” that he had previously interpreted as threatening. His understanding shifts.

In "What We See When We See Each Other," once we get past the preliminary story of pain relief via cannabis, I inform my primary MD the reasons I changed orthopedic surgeons, how I risk traumatic flashback if a doctor is impersonal and aloof with me, rather than engaged and informative. My off-label use of topiramate to tamp down flashbacks and my reference to my traumatized four-year-old self merely hint at what remains unsaid. “Do 'normal' people reveal this much?” I wonder. I suspect that even mentioning my pre-existing PTSD may open a door to humiliation or worse—helplessness.

In my story, my primary MD sends me an email with the single letter “L”. She sends love in response to my disclosure, and my understanding shifts.

In both the fictional "Absolution" and the nonfiction "What We See When We See Each Other" we are reminded of our shared humanity, and of how much we don’t see when we see each other.


Catherine Klatzker's writing has appeared in Emry’s Journal, Tiferet Journal, Lime Hawk Journal, and are forthcoming in mental health anthologies from In Fact Books and Lime Hawk Literary Arts Collective. She was a Ragdale Foundation writing resident and won Tiferet Journal’s 2014 first prize in nonfiction. Catherine is a recently retired pediatric ICU RN and she has coordinated mindfulness retreats for ten years for professional health caregivers coping with death. Read “What We See When We See Each Other” in the Spring 2015 Intima and more about her work at catherine.klatzker.com.