Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities


Charles Halsted
Davis, California, United States

She was admitted to Ain Shams Hospital in Cairo after vomiting blood, having slipped into Nile mud while harvesting sugar cane eighteen months before. Surprisingly, she had not fallen into the current, but had regained her footing and survived her fall.

Although all seemed well for the next year or so, seeds had been planted and crops begun to grow, others had noticed her skin turning yellow, her legs becoming sticks, her disorientation as to location—her mind in a blur she was mumbling and confused.

Once ensconced in our metabolic research ward, she began to babble about invisible spirits and refused her food. Her belly was enlarged, liver tender, sclerae as yellow as mustard. The lungs were clear and her heart sounds normal. Laboratory testing confirmed liver failure. We treated the failure, did the best that we could. Nevertheless, she slipped into a coma two days later. After more lab results had arrived, we made our diagnosis: Schistosoma infection from her fall into the mud of the Nile. She died one day later.

Nile River where patient contracted Schistosomiasis
Nile River in Aswan. Photo by Ibrahim El-Mezayen. 2016. Via Wikimedia.

CHARLES HALSTED, the son of a physician, grew up in Dedham, MA, and Los Angeles, CA. He attended college at Stanford University, BA 1958, and medical school at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, MD 1962. After serving his military service at the US Naval Medical Research Unit #3 in Cairo, Egypt, he obtained specialty training in gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Following three years as a faculty member at Baltimore City Hospital, he obtained a position at the University of California Davis School of Medicine where he taught, conducted academic research, and practiced until his retirement as Professor Emeritus in 2015. His poetry education consisted of twelve consecutive online courses from Stanford Continuing Studies and six retreats with well-known poets in California, Oregon, and New Mexico. His poems have appeared in thirty-five different journals, one chapbook, Breaking Eighty, and two books, Extenuating Circumstances and On Razor-Thin Tires.

Winter 2021



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