Dear doctors, Are you looking through our charts and wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into? Are you maybe wishing we were someone else’s problem? Yeah, we know. It’s OK. We know we aren’t the type of patient most doctors like to take on. There are a lot of strings attached to us, and there’s a lot of paperwork waiting to join that already insurmountable mountain of paperwork on your desk. We can’t ...

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"You have no husband?"  asked an oncologist at an Ivy League cancer center, his voice full of concern. "No," I replied. "No sons?" "No." "No daughters?" "No." "No sisters or brothers?" "No." "Your parents -- are they living?" "No." When I mentioned friends and extended family, he talked right over me.  Without a nuclear family, he seemed to think, I had no one. I'd been diagnosed with stage four gallbladder cancer, usually fatal within months.  The surgeon who'd removed three-quarters of ...

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Every patient has a story and an experience, and my patient experience began on July 6, 2004. One month after graduating from high school, I was involved in a near-fatal car accident. My heart shifted across my chest, lungs collapsed, major organs were either lacerated or failed completely, my pelvis was shattered, and I lost 60 percent of my blood. I was airlifted to shock trauma near death and underwent immediate ...

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Prior to her death, a courageous young woman named Jess Jacobs, who suffered from POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), wrote about the worst health care experience of her life.  It is a somewhat horrifying account of hospitalization in Washington D.C.  Her goal was to work toward meaningful health care changes in the system for the better. When I came across the story of another young woman afflicted with this ...

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Recently, the widow of Robin Williams made a plea to neurologists. Susan Schneider Williams' plea, in the form of an editorial in the journal Neurology, aimed to help neurologists "understand your patients along with their spouses and caregivers a little more" and "add a few more faces behind the why you do what you do." Her article tells the story of her husband’s tragic physical and psychological battle culminating in his death ...

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Seven years ago, when I was first diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer, I approached it with a determination to win. As a competitive runner, that’s what I’ve always done. Cancer would be another uphill battle, with tough stretches as well as easier ones, just like my races. My oncologist encouraged me to keep running during all my treatments, telling me it would help on many levels. He and I knew it would ...

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"Nursing students needed to work in the University Hospital. Good pay. Orientation." As a rising nursing school senior in the 1970s, I naïvely applied for the job above without getting the full details. No one mentioned that I'd be working in a psychiatric unit housing twenty-five aggressive, catatonic or schizophrenic patients, many of whom had been locked away for years. The entrance sign, which should have read "Locked Psych/Med/Surg Unit," said simply, ...

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By the time I reached Dr. R, I was twelve months into an undiagnosed, severe, lower abdominal pain condition. Desperate for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan after seeing ten doctors who had misdiagnosed me, I was exhausted and beyond frustrated with the care I’d received. Seated across from Dr. R. in her office with copies of my medical records and symptom diary in tow, I waited quietly while she reviewed ...

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Whenever he meets with a new patient, Harvey Chochinov likes to ask one important question: “What should I know about you as a person to help me take the best care of you that I can?” It’s a question every doctor should ask, says Chochinov, author of Dignity Therapy and director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit; a question he has found helps patient and doctor alike dial ...

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Dr. Kaveh Shojania, a prominent patient safety expert who scoffs at the numbers and laughs at the tragedy inflicted on countless victims of medical error, should step down as editor of a leading hospital safety journal. About three years ago, a scientist named John James published a study proclaiming that -- at minimum -- 210,000 people die every year from hospital errors, making it the third leading cause of death in ...

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