Tag Archives: Vignettes at Large

Why do physicians write so badly?

Peter Arnold Sydney, Australia   Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels An old joke is that pharmacists are the only people who can read physicians’ handwriting. This piece is not about handwriting, but about writing style. Compared with great medical authors, like Somerset Maugham, Conan Doyle, Anton Chekhov, John Keats, and Friedrich von Schiller, most […]

The two doctors

In the crowded center of an ancient city with churches and minarets, with fragrant spices and fluttering chickens for sale, there practiced two friends who finished medical school in the same year. The one who had graduated at the bottom of the class had a huge practice. The one who came first had very few […]

The old ice box

A popular doctor once had in his office an old icebox that had long ceased to fulfill the function for which it had been created. It was disconnected from electrical power but spacious enough to allow a person to sit in it. The physician would tell his worried, well patients that this was an x-ray […]

The last iron lungs

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   This photograph depicts an opened Emerson respirator, also known as an iron lung. Photo by Jim Gathany. Via CDC/ GHO/ Mary Hilpertshauser. Public Domain. Source In the springtime of my internship year, I rotated onto the polio ward where I learned that poliomyelitis could kill by paralyzing the […]

Our celiac boarder

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   Inflammation of the intestinal mucosa may lead to villous atrophy of the small intestine. 2018. Scientific Animations. Via Wikimedia. CC BY-SA 4.0 I listened with care to her history of weight loss, grain aversion, abdominal cramps, and frequent diarrhea. Her great-grandfather was an early California settler who had […]

Munchausen by Proxy

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   My last patient of the morning was a teenage girl, just turned eighteen. She walked in slowly, her face in agony, apprehensive. Her mother said the pain had begun at age twelve, about when she started to menstruate, yet it never let up, periods or not. Refusing food, […]

Heart failure

Charles Halsted  Davis California, United States   By the time I completed my third medical school year, I had learned the basics of physiology and biochemistry, but had never been face-to-face with a person who depended upon my skills to survive. I had never heard a racing heart nor the sounds of gurgling lungs. I […]

Schistosomiasis

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 […]

Kwashiorkor

Charles Halsted Davis, California, United States   An eleven-month-old Egyptian infant sat wailing on a cot, his abdomen pouched out and covered by spider-like purplish veins. His tiny arms and legs were like sticks, except for his swollen ankles. He was brought in by his mother who knew that his food and care would be […]

Lucid interval

Emma Manuel Eshwar Rajesh Chennai, India   Clutches of Cannabis. Photo by Marlon Lara on Unsplash Even during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people like me were silently grateful for the opportunity to spend some time with their family. Born as a single child whose parents got frequent transfers, I had lived with […]