Wearing a hospital gown and blue-paper shorts I ease down, first onto my side, then gingerly onto my back that still protests after a month in response to once innocent movements. The technician slides a bolster under my knees, and warm blanket over them, hands me earplugs and an emergency call button, pushes a button,…Read More
I’ve always promised myself I wouldn’t work with anything living, a prohibition I applied first when, in high school, I job-shadowed a pathologist and fainted when watching a lung biopsy, fainted when seeing the wall of stored blood, fainted ad infinitum into the twenty-first century. I couldn’t deal with watching pain, and I hadn’t considered…Read More
Under the circumstances, we had given them all we could: our time, our presence, our attention. We visited them in their home. We listened to their stories. We stood in witness. We carry them in memory.
In a brief intersection of radically different lives, we acknowledged one another’s frail humanity. That was our therapy, a word from the Greek, therapon, “one who attends.” As medical professionals, we’d come wanting to do so much more.
It’s precisely then that presence is needed: a practice to banish distraction, dial down emotion, return attention to the exchange happening right now, and note my responses—mental and physical. That’s when I live into the role of attending physician. . . Without practices of attentive presence, the patient’s real concerns will be overlooked, important information remain hidden, diagnoses missed, and complex therapies wasted.Read More
Faith wasn’t always without question. Faith wasn’t always so accepting, so joyful in its major key, its seven-note intervals. Once, doubt was desired, not just as a frame of mind but also as a bodily state. Prayer was an uncertain call to a God who might live anywhere, whose existence didn’t matter so much as the question that reverberated through flesh. Prayer was communication without resolution, felt only in the dropped notes flickering through the body.Read More