In the dark lecture room, I watched the neurologist's shadow flicker across the only source of light -- a projection of the New York City subway map. He pointed at Times Square station. If the subway system were a brainstem, then Times Square would be the pons, transporting vital signals like breathing, speaking, and swallowing. He likened the station's abrupt destruction to a stroke producing locked-in syndrome. Writer Jean-Dominique Bauby describes ...

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“What is the meaning of life?” A perfectly reasonable question, albeit a strange one considering that I was in the third grade, it was recess time, and I was having a philosophical conversation about death with a grasshopper I had just caught. Ever since I could remember, I was fascinated by death. But my life was characterized more by loss than by death. When I was three, there were no funeral processions ...

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Mid-November, and Christmas music is already blaring from speakers camouflaged in silver holiday tinsel. Frank Sinatra’s croons reverberate throughout the barren expanse that is Somerset Mall at 8 a.m. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas…” It’s raining outside. I begin to laugh and try to explain the apparent irony to my grandmother, but my attempt gets lost in translation. My Chinese is poor. Her English, poorer. ...

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shutterstock_122870008 On Valentine’s Day weekend last year I found myself at Paddles, the local dungeon in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood, for the first time. I was perched at the alcohol-free bar when a man politely introduced himself as a human carpet. He asked that I tread on him and lay on the floor to demonstrate. A professional dominatrix-in-training stepped onto his ...

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shutterstock_211099459 In the pediatrics playroom, the medical team and I, a medical student, hunkered down in child-sized chairs to review patient progress notes. A television screen nearby diverted my attention. On CNN, video of protesters alternated with Eric Garner’s final moments. The television was mute, but I could hear Garner say, “I can’t breathe ...I can’t breathe …” One moment, he is ...

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shutterstock_238716700 “Well, if medicine doesn’t work out, you can always fall back on waiting tables,” I joked with my waiter, who, like me, happens to be a medical student. We were bonding over completing our first year of medical school -- he, in Detroit, and myself, in the Bronx. He liked waiting tables and decided to work during his last summer of ...

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