when breath becomes air

Lucy Kalanithi, widow of the best selling author of When Breath Becomes Air, came to Philly recently and I heard her speak. Since I am so interested in narrative medicine, and storytelling, I wanted to know why he wrote the book, how he wrote the book, and when he wrote the book -- literally as he was dying. His widow had to finish it. It is really powerful to see a surgeon's perspective from the other side of the bed, so to speak.



 In better days, before his death, surgeon Paul Kalanithi and his wife, Lucy, an internist.

In better days, before his death, surgeon Paul Kalanithi and his wife, Lucy, an internist.

My stories from Temple --

Zeke Emmanuel studies assisted suicide in JAMA

My former colleague Stacey Burling writes a good story today in The Philadelphia Inquirer on the latest research on physician assisted suicide -- better known among supporters as medical aid in dying or death with dignity. She interviews Ezekiel Emanuel, the Penn professor and physician, who has a long history in this issue and opposes legalizing it. The catalyst for the story is a study on the subject that ran in JAMA on Tuesday.

Here is the link to her story:



People not Patients

Zinete Kupa, 40, and her daughter, Mihane, 14, wait for lab results on a bench outside Temple University Hospital. To amuse themselves they send a selfie to family members back in Tirana, Albania, where they are from. 



"I don't feel very good, " said Zinette, whose primary care doctor in Port Richmond sent her here for tests.  Mihane, a middle child and natural caregiver in the family, came with her mother. Her dream: "to be either a fashion designer or a nurse." 

The family moved here years ago "for a better life." Hamit, the husband and father who works construction, was resting on another bench. They had another half hour to kill before the test results would be ready. Then they'd go back inside to find out what was wrong. 


People, not patients: Holding hands and holding up!

Standing outside the hospital, enjoying the glorious sunshine, holding hands, Sam and Claire Zieminski looked like they had a story to tell. So I stopped and introduced myself. 
They came to Temple hospital this morning for her, for an endoscopy, and all was well. But he was the real medical marvel, with triple bypass surgery in 2009 and a double lung transplant here in 2012. 
 He said he felt great _ “”like I never had anything wrong with me.”
The retired Philadelphia police officer and his wife, 71 and 70, just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary and took a cruise.
I loved their All-American look _ her red-and-white, stars-and-stripes t-shirt and his blue one. Underneath that shirt, I joked to him, I bet you’ve got scars.
“Oh, he’s got a lot,” she said. 
“Looks like I was in a knife fight and lost,” he said. 
But at this moment, in life, it sure looked like he was winning. They both were.
They will be having a barbecue at their Bensalem home on the Fourth of July, with kids and grandkids. .

Bill Lyon at his best

Bill Lyon, the great Philadelphia Inquirer sports columnist, battles Alzheimer’s and takes us along on this journey as only he can, with honest, modesty, humor and insight.  Bill is 78, retired, and plans to write until he no longer can. Here is the first part, with links to the next three. Read along: http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20160605_My_Alzheimers_fight_Never_ever_quit.html?mobi=true

People not patients: On every bench there is a story...

“She was sitting sweetly, snuggled next to her two boys on the bench. She had oxygen tubing leading into her nose. But she looked young and healthy and happy. So I stopped and introduced myself, and asked her for her story.

"I need a double lung transplant caused by rheumatoid arthritis,” she said. She was 36. Her boys 11 and 7. “I don’t even know how I got it. I don’t smoke, or drink, or do drugs.”

“I did something bad once,” she said. “I committed fraud. I got in with the wrong people, and I went to prison for two years. But God has given me a second chance.”

She has a beautiful name, Arileyda Amparo, and she lives in Philadelphia. She comes to Temple Hospital every six weeks to have her blood checked. She is just waiting for an appropriate set of lungs to become available.

Why Temple? “This is the best hospital for it,” she said. “And I can see that. They treat me good. I feel safe here.”

She takes many medications. “Drugs help one thing and damage another. It’s a battle every day but God give me the strength everyday.”

Her boys were now running circles around her bench, the energy of youth. They had gotten check-ups themselves that afternoon.

I thanked her and wished her well. Their ride was here and they were gone.