“Notes from a Healer” — Three Important Things

From where I sit behind my desk I can hear him coming down the hall. His voice pierces the quiet calm of the office. Layered throughout I hear two additional voices: that of a woman, presumably the boy’s mother, and that of the medical assistant, soft and low. I have been forewarned about this boy. more»

My latest installment of Notes from a HealerThree Important Things — 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.

Tech speak

Modern technology has permeated our youthful culture. Even the very young become digitalized at an early age. Evidence for this phenomenon is found in their expressive speech and spoken responses.

*  *  *

At her son’s 7-year-old well child exam, a mother confided in me that the boy had been having academic difficulties at school. “He’s a bit behind in reading,” she told me. “We’ve started reading together evenings on his Kindle before bed. If it’s a good book, he’s more likely to stick with it.” Then, to the boy, she said: “What was that last book we finished—‘Into the Woods’?”

The boy nodded his head. “In the story they went for a hike,” he said.

“Where did they go hiking?” I asked him.

“On the Application Trail,” he said.

*  *  *

Another mother brought her brood of three young boys to the office. One of them complained of a sore throat. Sure enough, the test came back positive for strep.

“We’ll give him an antibiotic to take and he should feel much better by tomorrow,” I explained.

I pulled the prescription pad from my pocket. “Can he swallow pills now, or would he prefer to take the medicine off a spoon?” I asked.

“Probably pills,” the mother said. “He doesn’t like the taste of those liquid medications.”

“That’s fine,” I said, putting pen to paper. “We’ll have him take one tablet—”

Immediately, the younger brother blurted out: “Wow, you’re going to give him a Nook?”

*  *  *

I finished counseling an 8-year-old with chronic constipation on the value of a high fiber diet with these words: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

To which he replied: “I don’t think so. In our house we’ve all got iPads and iPods, and my mom still drags us in here for shots.”

Author’s Note: This piece appeared in the Winter 2013 edition of “Connecticut PA,” a quarterly publication of the Connecticut Academy of Physician Assistants.

Mindful Practice: More than meets the eye

Only one thing nags at me in this particular case: the mother’s tattoos. Frankly, I can’t imagine what would possess anyone to pay enormous sums of money to have every square inch of body surface area covered in tattoo art. more»

Interested readers can now access my article More than meets the eye: Lessons in patient cosmography, newly published online in the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants.

A winter palette

Two chickadees and a white-breasted nuthatch flit about in the bare branches of the maples in the back yard, while slate grey juncos hop across the crusted surface of snow below.

All three species wear grey cloaks year round, but only juncos keep their hoods up; chickadees and nuthatches sport black berets instead.

The nuthatch smooths her beret back toward her shoulders, while the chickadee pushes his cap down low on his forehead.

Only the chickadee dons a black bib to offset his white throat; only the chickadee shows pale burnt-orange flanks which reflect the tiny fire that burns within his breast.

All three species blend well with the winter landscape: a palette of grey and black and white infused with hints of sienna.

The hawk and the squirrel

The day before yesterday we had an additional dusting of snow, which has persisted mainly because of the extreme cold. There’s just enough white in the landscape to remind us that despite what the calendar might say, winter has arrived here in New England.

I stepped outside for a walk Monday morning, carrying an umbrella to ward off the sleet. A winter mix had fallen over the course of Sunday night, leaving the driveway a bit slick. As I inched down the gentle slope, a large object flapped down by the stone wall along the front walkway. I looked up to see a big red tail hawk standing on the turf. On closer inspection I glimpsed the limp form of a grey squirrel beneath its right foot. The bird’s talons were embedded in the squirrel’s skull.

I stood stock still for nearly three minutes as the bird turned its head this way and that. Finally it took flight, slightly out of kilter with the weight of the squirrel’s carcass swinging below. It perched in a nearby pine with the limp carcass of its prey dangling below the branch, and sat motionless as I passed by below it.

Life is tenuous; every living thing struggles to survive against seemingly insurmountable odds.

“The Surge” republished

The problems are three in number. Two are skin deep; the third lies deeper…

Originally published in Dermanities online (October 7th, 2008; 5(3)), The Surge has been republished in the fall issue of the Journal of Dermatology for Physician Assistants (JDPA), Volume 7, Number 4, page 55.

Interested readers can also access this piece here.

My last day

On this, my last day,
After 20 years in this practice
I saw 31 patients,
Administered 19 immunizations,
Counseled 4 distraught parents,
Reassured 17 mothers,
Praised 3 new fathers,
Called in 8 prescriptions,
Reviewed 14 laboratory studies,
Signed 9 daycare forms
And 6 school exam forms,
Completed 5 authorizations for medication,
Ran 4 rapid group A strep tests
(3 of which were positive),
Explained 25 times why I was leaving,
Ate a piece of homemade carrot cake,
Emptied out the contents of my desk,
Watered the dying peace plant,
Hauled my files, books, notepads,
Cards and gifts (2 bow ties)
Out to my car,
Slammed the tailgate shut,
Climbed into the driver’s seat,
Adjusted the belt and harness,
Inserted the key,
Hit the ignition switch,
Slipped the car in gear
And rolled across the parking lot,
Forgiving a betrayal
Without looking back.

15 November 2013

2013©Brian T. Maurer