Birds of a feather

“Downy woodpecker on hummingbird feeder” 2012 © Emily B. Maurer

Motionless in our rocking chairs, we watched the female Downy woodpecker ascend the mock orange bush in fits and starts. Finally it flitted to the hummingbird feeder suspended from the overhead porch beam. The bird clung to the circular plastic perch and made an attempt to peck at the feeding port before righting itself and inserting its bill into the tiny opening to savor the sugary fluid. Seemingly unfraid, it continued to feed, paying us no mind. After a minute it finally flitted away to the pines.

This is the first year we have witnessed a woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder.

In tough economic times, even the birds adapt.

“Downy woodpecker” 2012 © Emily B. Maurer

Humane Medicine — The principle of uncertainty in medical practice

On her physical exam there is nothing amiss to report. Yet something is obviously bothering this child. Uncertain as to which direction to proceed, I take a stab in the dark. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Humane Medicine column — The principle of uncertainty in medical practice — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

“Notes from a Healer” — Think Pink

Some hurts never leave us. Willingly, we choke down our daily pill; and the bitterness lingers. more»

My latest installment of Notes from a HealerThink Pink — is now online, newly published in the Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.

The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine is an online journal fostering discussion about the culture of medicine, medical care, and experiences of illness. Interested readers can access a list of editorial board members and regular contributors here.

Picking up a prescription

“This is Ahmed, our newest pharmacist.”

The owner of the drug store presents the immaculately groomed gentleman in the white coat. I smile and extend a hand over the broad expanse of counter top between us.

“I work in one of the medical practices in town,” I inform him, citing the name.

“Ah yes, I have filled prescriptions which you have written.”

“I’m here to pick up two of my own,” I say. “I called ahead to verify that they were ready.”

Ahmed searches the shelf. “Here they are,” he says, reaching for the white paper bag. “It looks as though your insurance company has applied the cost toward your deductible. You have a deductible, yes?”

I shrug my shoulders. “I don’t know. I just pay what I’m told.”

“We put it through your insurance and this is the final amount.” Ahmed shows me the printout—sticker shock.

He swipes my credit card to complete the transaction and places the charge slip on the counter for me to sign.

“We had to order the antimalarial preparation special,” he says. “Where are you traveling to?”

“Nigeria,” I tell him. “Medical mission.”

“Ah, I am from Africa too—Egypt—but I have never been south of the Sahara.”

“Just this week I have seen two Egyptian families in the office. Both are headed back to Cairo for the summer. There seems to be quite a bit of political dissatisfaction there right now.”

The smile fades from Ahmed’s face. “Yes, we are electing a president. But neither candidate is very popular with the masses, for various reasons. And this latest debacle with the high court—well, that has everyone upset.”

“So I understand.”

“It is a period of transition for us. Such transitions take time. It will be a long time before things settle out,” Ahmed says. “But, I am happy to hear that there are a couple of Egyptian families in your practice.”

“They are good people,” I tell him.

“Good luck on your journey,” he says. “I hope things go well.”

So do I. Transitions take time, and some take more time than others.