Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Rural home visit 1973

Paul Rousseau
Charleston, South Carolina, United States

The road frozen and snowflakes fluttering, I travel to a distant farmhouse—the sick in bed on her side, hair in sweat-wet crescents and vomitus on the sheets, the husband wailing, “She’s dying, she’s dying,” and a dog and three toddlers lapping milk from the linoleum—and as I stoop to palpate, the sick howls in a piercing voice, “Oh dear God, it’s coming, it’s coming,” and the head crowns as the sixth child is born.

Original Illustration by Claudia Lundahl for “Rural Home Visit 1973.” Ink on paper.

PAUL ROUSSEAU is a semi-retired hospice and palliative medicine physician/writer in Charleston, South Carolina. He has been writing for over thirty-eight years, in part to tell the untold stories of patients, in part to assuage the sorrow of the loss of his wife. His writing has appeared in Hektoen International, Annals of Internal Medicine, JAMA, Journal of Palliative Medicine, Blood and Thunder, The Healing Muse, Medical Literary Messenger, and other medical and literary journals, but he believes that “putting words to paper,” whether published or not, is the most important part of his writing. He is on Twitter at @ScribbledCoffee.

Summer 2021



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