I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, heading to Ukraine “to make a difference,” or so I hoped. I was leading a medical mission to this beautiful yet poor and war-torn country. I was watching the movie First Man about the landing of Apollo 11 on the moon that epic day in July 1969. I was not quite 14 years of age at that time, but I vividly remember the ...

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Years ago, I watched an interview on TV with nurses who cared for a man dying of Ebola. Their words and actions continue to ring as true today during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as they did then. Their compassion deeply moved me for this man dying a horrible death. They did all they could for him, not only medically but also emotionally. They spoke of the fear that gripped them, knowing ...

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The cardiologist was called STAT to the ED for a 50-year-old man with an acute STEMI. The man arrested eight times in the ED, each time successfully resuscitated. He finally stabilized to where he could be moved to the cardiac cath lab. The cardiologist quickly met with the wife and told her the plans and that they would do everything possible to save her husband’s life. As he turned to ...

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I recently read a story that struck close to home for me, and I suspect for nearly all of you in your medical careers at one time or another. It was a story of a surgeon called in urgently to the ED for a seriously injured young boy. The surgeon arrived as soon as he could, only to be confronted by an irate father for being late and ...

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She shook her head no, eyes brimming with tears, chin quivering with emotion. Again, I told her that without further care, her son would never have use of his arm and possibly would die. Her voice trembling, she told me her husband would beat her if she returned home without the boy. She placed her son on their horse, his newly bandaged arm in a make-shift sling. I gave her ...

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“Grief never ends ... but it changes. It’s a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith ... It is the price of love.” – Anonymous The “price of love”: We are now paying that price with the passing of Debbie this weekend. I grieve as I write this. The entire hospital and everyone who knew Debbie grieve. We have a right ...

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Christmas Eve 1990, Saudi Arabia, a few miles south of the Iraqi border - it is cold and dark as I lay on my cot, my sleeping bag around me, the constant hum of the generators in the background. I am listening to Pachabel’s Canon in D minor on my cassette player. Rain pelts the tent I share with nine other Army doctors. The sides move rhythmically with the wind, ...

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I stood inside the door of “una chosa,” Spanish for “a hut” -- the walls bamboo and sunbaked mud; a broom-swept dirt floor; two open windows partially covered by tattered cloth; no running water, no electricity. The acrid smell of smoke from the wood fire in the open brick oven permeated the air. Then I saw her. Lying on a bed made of wood and rope was a ...

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“You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath, New names unknown, old names gone: Till time end bodies, but souls none. Reader! Then make time, while you be, But steps to your eternity.” - Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, “Caelica 83” I cried Sunday morning as I sat by my fire pit. It was all I could do to keep from sobbing as I read the last pages of When Breath ...

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February 24, 1991, and I wait. I wait on the edge of my cot under the pitched canopy of my far-away canvas home; its sides pulsating from the ever-present wind; sand somehow traversing the walls, everything inside airbrushed a pastel tan; outside the surrounding Saudi Arabian desert limitless in all directions. The winds of war have been blowing, and the time has come. There are 10 of us ...

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I am a veteran. My father and all three of my brothers are veterans. I have been to war, separated from my family, with the danger real, living in the desert, in a tent with the sand blowing through the walls, sleeping on a cot with cardboard boxes for furniture. I know how it feels to lay on that cot, in the darkness, missing your family so badly ...

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He reminded me of a pit bull, this sometimes cantankerous but always fascinating World War II veteran. We first met in 1992, shortly after I arrived in Burlington following my years in the Army. Chronologically he was in his early 70s, but physiologically he was years younger. Square-jawed, short and stocky with broad shoulders, and muscular, tattooed arms, I easily envisioned a once physically imposing, rakishly handsome, young man. For ...

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He was in his 30s, strikingly handsome with the short-cropped hair of a soldier. This was Ukraine, and it was at war with Russia. He was now part of that war, a war the rest of the world has forgotten or no longer cares about, even as its’ young men continued to fight and die in the horror that is the front-line. His unit’s chaplain asked me to see him ...

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The cab driver pulled up to a small house, typical of the post – WWII era. He honked his horn and waited. He honked a second time, but no one came. He contemplated leaving, as it was near the end of his shift, but decided to go knock on the door. Through the door, he heard a voice and something scraping across the floor. The door slowly opened ...

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“How long have you been married?” The question came from a young woman kneeling down by the elevator in the hotel where my wife and I were staying while in Seattle. We were there to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary with an Alaskan cruise. I hadn’t even noticed her as my wife and I were busy talking about the day. She appeared to be in her twenties. Her appearance was that of ...

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“The only end to pain is the graveyard.” Those words are etched forever in my mind. They underscore the hopelessness of so many throughout the world. She was 90 years old, crippled by arthritis, no family, and lived alone in a dirt floor hovel with no electricity or running water. She lived in a tiny village of 2000 people in the poorest country in Europe, Moldova. She lived every day without ...

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 In today’s increasingly technological, data-driven, depersonalized world of health care, I wonder if the concept of “a good death” is even possible. The COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, has caused me to reflect on this. What does it look like? How do you define it? As I did, a patient came to mind. He was a retired minister in his 80s. I had cared for his wife as well ...

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I recently saw a powerful video about an amazing nurse who is a foster mother to children dying of cancer. She lovingly cared for them no matter the circumstance, the difficulties, or the heartbreak that came with each and every death of one of these precious children. It broke my heart to see and hear. It caused me to reflect on how fortunate we are to have people with hearts ...

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“Will I ever get better, Andrew?” my mother asked. She laid in bed, too weak to sit up, unable to eat, her myelofibrosis in the final stages of its relentless course. Her question stunned me – did she not know she was dying? How could she not? Was she in complete denial? Was she simply grasping for a final chance at hope when all seemed hopeless? Reality quickly set in, ...

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Have you ever found yourself with a patient not knowing what to say or do? Maybe you just told them they had cancer or that the last treatment option had failed or a loved one had died. I have, many times, and I always felt helpless, inept, and alone while doubting my abilities as a physician. Medical school had not prepared me for this. I learned firsthand, one difficult, and ...

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