Monday, July 23, 2012


usually, it's part of my routine:
pouring pills into my mouth every day and quickly chugging water.
having needles stuck in my arms each month so my doctors can monitor blood counts and organ function.
sitting in waiting rooms and sterile offices until the doctor comes so i can beg her to let me take fewer pills.
usually, it's all okay, and these things are inconveniences, but life moves on.

then sometimes, the routine gets shaken:
despite the medications, my body drags and aches and little things like Garmin telling me she's "recalculating" causes me to burst into tears.
blood tests come back with values that are no longer normal.
i sit in more waiting rooms, but instead of begging for fewer pills, i beg to feel well.

sometimes, the thought of more invasive testing leaves me sobbing, even though i've ordered the same invasive test on a hundred of my own patients and promised them they would be okay.
sometimes, i shudder at the memory of coughing up blood for days after my last bronchoscopy and swear that despite my doctor's recommendations, no one is putting another camera in my mouth. 
sometimes, i just don't want to do this anymore.

and someday, i hope things will be okay. 
that my body won't feel like its breaking.
that there won't be tests i'm avoiding. 
that there won't be infusions to schedule. 
that my soul won't be weary of the pills and the bloodwork and uncertainty. 
that i'll recognize the privilege in all this - that i can opt out of testing and treatment, when my swazi friend has been waiting months for a CT scan.
that i'll see that maybe, somehow, this is grace.

Monday, July 2, 2012

pray with me. please.

"no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will
always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal."
- sarah kay, "if i should have a daughter"

over and over i'm reminded of how powerless i am across an ocean.

for months we were inseparable, wandering the hills of a near-abandoned town that previously thrived from its now-closed absestos mine. she taught me to quickly drink a can of coke after eating bad meat so the acid will hopefully kill any bacteria (i don't know if this actually worked). she built a fire to keep me warm when fever and chills left my teeth chattering and body shaking. she fed me swazi comfort food as i recovered from a crazy parasite (fyi - soured milked poured over maize meal is not a comfort if you are not swazi). she sat next to me during my first swazi funeral, translating all that was happening despite her own need to grieve. she dragged me over a mountain so we could play in a beautiful hidden waterfall. she brought me fresh donuts from the bread truck on my last morning in swaziland. 

now her places of need grow larger by the day:'s a bad headache. they say i am lacking blood...
...i'm losing my job, we are shutting down...
...i made it to the hospital in the capital but it was not easy to walk there. there is a blood clot in my leg. the doctors put me on a medicine called coumadin. i need a c.t. scan but it is very expensive. praise god it was not a stroke...
...the people of this town, they have no mercies for me. they want rent for the house while i have no work and am sick... 
...i trust god won't test me with something i cannot handle... 

my heart breaks over again with every message. i spread open my hands trying to catch her pain. i send out frantic emails until i find an expat who i can send money to that can get it to her. i cry out prayers and tears and beg for her to be healed. i message words of love and put airmail stamps on hallmark cards but her pain deepens.
and so...can you pray with me for zandi? for healing. for a job. for hope. for her amazing faith to continue to strengthen her. and as always, for hiv to end. soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

intern year, end. second year, begin.

during our intern orientation last june, one of the chief residents said, "if this year isn't the worst year of your life, you've had a pretty horrible life." this past year was definitely not the worst year of my life (and i have not had a horrible life). this past year was hard, but i've had harder. this past year was hard, but there was grace.

there are things that have been difficult: a three-day hospitalization for pneumonia. turning down a residency position at hopkins because something in my heart told me i need to be here in pittsburgh for now. keeping people alive who should have been allowed to die in peace. letting people die who i wished could have lived.  

but there are also things that have been beautiful: finding out i really like seeing patients. being healthy enough to see patients. only needing to take five sick days all year (compare with at least thirty the year prior). giant chocolate chip cookies from the hospital cafeteria. being able to meet my parents for dinner after living away the past nine years.  making new friends. escaping to mexico and the pacific northwest with old friends. finding i am stronger than i imagined.  

so i take a deep breath in and let a new year begin.