Dr. Brown, in his evocative and poignant essay “The Moral Matrix of Wartime Medicine,” (Intima, Fall 2015), describes his experiences as a young physician during the Vietnam War and both the immediate and long-term effects of the psychic and moral wounds he and other military medical personnel accrued while serving in combat zones.Read More
In this Crossroads blog, poet Catherine Klatzker reflects on another poet's work in Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine.
the lyrical dancer withinRead More
I found so much comfort in Thomas J Doyle’s non-fiction piece "To Pronounce." He writes so vividly of entering a patient’s room to quietly declare time of death that I find myself standing right next to him, feeling the sadness he is describing. He has learned over time to honor the moment. I hope that one day I will feel less lost when faced with the end of someone’s life.Read More
Both “The Room” by Jodi Palik (Fiction/Fall 2016) and “The Last Stand” by Kelley Yuan (Studio Art) address the way children experience illness—from their unspoken fears, to their keen powers of observation, to their profound intuition about matters they may not understand. In my piece, “The Pull of Gravity” (Nonfiction/Fall 2017), I consider the long-term emotional and psychological aftermath of serious childhood illness as it played out in my family.Read More
Sometimes words are just words and it is the listener’s interpretation, rather than the speaker’s intent, that give them meaning.Read More
In her thought-provoking piece, “Dovetail,” the poet Zoe Mays reflects on the unsettled decision-making abilities of an acquaintance with cancer. “Did I say this would make sense?” summarizes the patient’s philosophy on her condition and the cacophony of chain reactions that characterize her after diagnosis.Read More
Chaos stories can be “told” through metaphor, gesture, and image. We need to find ways to expand our capacity to listen to these types of patient (or family member or community) stories.Read More
In Sarah Shirley’s poem ‘Wernicke-Korsakoff’ (Intima, Spring, 2017), she elucidates the dilemma of caring for a patient who is angry, non-compliant, inarticulate, hostile, confused, or otherwise “difficult”. How do we reach across the barriers that such patients present, to find an opening through which we can glean from them the information we need to take care of them, and to establish mutual trust?Read More
This truth became inescapable when I began my nursing career on a cancer and hospice floor. Oncology care is fraught with the observation of suffering. The desire to find meaning in pain converges with the harshness of reality. Why
Life and death, as blatantly simple as they may seem from a purely physiological standpoint, are rather complex phenomena. Healthcare practitioners witness life and death a countless number of times. They are taught the intricacies of the human body: how to optimize its function and how to declare it deceased. Yet, nothing can prepare even the masters of this trade to face their own demise.Read More
Our verbal and written stories tie us together and promote understanding. They help us to work through traumatic experiences, to acknowledge our demons, and to heal.Read More
Illnesses are contagious.
We all know this, but while the frame on the bed grows ever smaller, sometimes the faces of the grieving grow gaunt as well.Read More
I first discovered I had Minimal Change Disease, the mildest form of nephrotic syndrome, when a routine insurance urine examination came back with higher than normal protein. Up until then, I assumed that foamy urine was a by-product of what I’d eaten or had to drink. In Sarah Safford’s poem, “A Cute Kidney Failure” from The Intima Fall 2016 issue, she asks the same question, “Kidneys, shmidneys, who thinks about them.” After my initial diagnosis, I did. A lot.Read More
No one, not even someone you love, can fill the hollowness. Still you cannot walk this alone. You need a witness, an errand goer, a soft presence, a light in the hallway. Someone who brings you tea or clean clothes, whose eyes will look back into yours.
When I looked up from all the waiting rooms, I found a communion of once-strangers waiting to help meRead More
What to do?
In 1927, in his lecture to Harvard medical students, the terminally ill Francis Peabody M.D. provided the answer, “the secret in caring for the patient, is in caring for the patient.”Read More
Togetherness is not artificial–it is not forced into the nooks and crannies between people. It is intrinsic to our existence as humans, no matter how fleeting the collision of our worlds. Moreover, togetherness need not be physical. We can feel connected to
The hierarchy in medicine is impossible to ignore. Medical students shuffle, interns survive, senior residents manage, and staff attendings command. Fortunately, these relationships have evolved over the last few decades and past feelings of authoritarianism have turned into mentorship.Read More
The sociological concept of the “sick role” may absolve patients of responsibility for causing their illness. But it does not protect them from the stigma often associated with illness. Nor does it protect them from their own feelings and thoughts.Read More