Narrative Medicine Monday: Disaster Relief

Today’s Narrative Medicine Monday is a bit different. In light of recent catastrophic hurricanes in the U.S., there have been many stories about disaster relief and people stepping up to help in ways they’re not used to. One such person is Dr. Jennifer McQuade. This NPR story describes how McQuade, a melanoma oncologist, dropped off basic supplies to a shelter following hurricane Harvey and discovered the medical aid there severely lacking. She then found herself in charge of a medical shelter, enlisting the help of other physicians and medical providers via a physician moms social media group. Often in such situations we’re called upon to help each other in ways we might not imagine possible. As Texan Claudia Solis notes in the story, “There’s a kindness…. They’re your neighbor, and you have to help, and it’s beautiful.”

Writing Prompt: Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you had to provide medical care beyond your normal area of expertise? Have you ever been the recipient of such care? Describe the situation and how you felt. How did it bring you closer to the people around you? Write for 10 minutes. 

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Free Write Friday: Feed

She feels bound, normal routine punctuated by the dread of each day, a scrolling feed of ominous news. Her three-year-old collapses in a tantrum, a heap of hot tears as he pounds his fists on the front door; he wants out. She wants out too, of the surreal reality of this reality show. She doesn’t want to contribute to over dramatization but this present darkness needs no assistance; the prognosis is dire.

So she gets up in the dark, shuffles into her day. Some days it takes effort to exercise, to chat with the barista, to get the kids into the car and off to school, to carry others’ burdens of illness throughout the day. She does it all, simultaneously avoiding while craving the news, the next shocking headline of the day.

She needs to write but struggles to find the words. She reads articles from The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Guardian. She listens to NPR and watches PBS. She streams The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live but finds it hard to laugh. The jokes are funny, but also so not. She follows the ACLU and World Relief on Twitter and avoids Facebook. The bombardment of outraged posts inevitably clog her feed. She feels like she needs to be fed, but slowly, so she can consider, in moderate, sustaining bites. But instead she is gorged on the glut of it all.

She wonders: this must be what it feels like to live during one of those eras, the kind she read about in school textbooks. Protests erupt, world powers align and misalign, everyone feels on edge. She looks at her chubby baby, not even a year old, and wonders what the textbooks will record of this time, how the era will be remembered, deconstructed. What will she tell her infant daughter about this nagging sensation of creeping dread, like struggling to find the surface as your lungs begin to burn underwater, knowing you need to break free and gulp the air.

So she writes anyway and moves about her day. She resolves to be resolute and find the ways a young mother can contribute. She gathers her people and marches with the crowd. She donates to persecuted causes and writes letters to her representatives. She mutes the static on her feed, will not tolerate xenophobia or the lies of alternative facts. She worries about the isolation of her liberal northwest bubble, she worries about her children’s distant future. She’ll read books and write more. She’ll feed herself with knowledge, with the lessons of history; she’ll feed her children and her tribe the same. She hopes this will sustain her and free her, or at least nourish her with a steady diet of discernment and tempered hope.


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