“Notes from a Healer” — Body Electric at 17

Of one thing I’m certain: the world will never be this boy’s oyster. When you suffer from chronic debilitating disease that deforms your young body as it struggles to develop and mature, you can bet that the world won’t be your oyster anytime soon. more»

My latest installment of Notes from a HealerThe Body Electric at 17 — 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.

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Humane Medicine — Déjà vu all over again

After a quick rap on the examination room door, I step across the threshold and enter a different time, a different place. The little girl sits on the lap of her grandmother, a woman I have not seen in a decade. Off to the side, the girl’s mother stands, waiting expectantly. more»

Interested readers can now access my latest Humane Medicine column — Déjà vu all over again — recently published in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

Please note that all of my previously published Humane Medicine pieces can now be accessed here.

Waning Gibbous

Night of the first waning gibbous.
Taurus, Orion, Canis;
Aldebaran, Betelgeuse, Sirius
Burn in the backlit sky,
Eclipsed by the light
Of the waning gibbous moon.

See how it hangs above
The fog-filled valley—
A misty sea punctuated
By three poor beacons
Burning in the night.

How lost I am
In this sea of clouds,
With only the seven sisters
To guide my steps
Beneath a waning gibbous moon.

Copyright 2013 Brian T. Maurer

Turning lemons into lemonade

On a recent morning commute, I caught a StoryCorps segment on National Public Radio.

This week’s piece featured a father and his 10-year-old daughter. At 4 years of age the girl developed a rare form of bone cancer in her spine. She went on to have 8 separate surgeries on her back. At one point 2 titanium rods were implanted the length of her vertebral column. She also received repeated courses of chemotherapy in an effort to combat the cancer.

Her father tells the girl what is was like for him to see her in the ICU after her first surgery: so many tubes going in and coming out of her small body. She was so swollen, he didn’t even recognize her at first. Gradually, she began to get better.

Now, at 10 years of age, she has been declared cancer free. But on her small body she still bears the scars that testify to the many procedures and treatments that she’s had to endure over the course of her short life.

One scar runs the length of her belly from the xyphoid process to the mons pubis. Another scar marks the location of the feeding tube that once entered her stomach.

When she was in the hospital, her father used colored felt-tipped pens to draw designs on her skin, incorporating the scars into the drawings. The long midline abdominal scar became the green stem of a brightly colored flower; the circular G-tube scar (she calls it her second belly button) became a butterfly. Her father used creative insight to turn something horrible into something beautiful for his suffering daughter.

We’ve all heard about what we can do when we are inundated with lemons. We can suck them to savor their sourness, or we can turn them into lemonade.

Many times in the world of medicine we can do little more than offer empathetic support to patients in the throes of chronic debilitating illness. Even though to us clinicians it might not seem to be a lot, to patients, a positive outlook radiating from the face of their caregiver means a great deal.

If perception is crucial, perspective is everything.

This piece was originally published in the August 2013 issue of “Connecticut PA” (Volume 3, Number 2).

“Notes from a Healer” — The i’s Have It

The schedule says he’s here for suture removal. The sutures were placed nearly two weeks ago at a local hospital emergency room. The diagnosis listed on the ER form is “gun shot wound,” a rather uncommon occurrence in this suburban practice. more»

My latest installment of Notes from a HealerThe i’s Have It — 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.

The Cemetery Conker

They stand erect
In death, as life;
A grave respect
Has felled their strife.

Now side by side
In silent rest
Their stones abide
With one request—

“Remember us,
Who went before!”
E pluribus,
Now unum corps.

Love’s labors lost:
A fall refrain;
And at what cost
In labored pain?

Elizabeth and Ellen lie,
Clothed in sodden suit;
While overhead the conkers ply
Autumn-laden fruit.

2013 © Brian T. Maurer

"Beneath the Conker Tree" 2013 © Brian T. Maurer

“Beneath the Conker Tree” 2013 © Brian T. Maurer