Being Empowered for Your Health

By Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH

Have you ever left one of your health appointments disappointed with your visit? Maybe you had just spoken to a health care professional, but instead of feeling like all of your concerns were addressed, you found yourself with even more questions? In this post, I will provide you practical tools that you can starting putting into use today that will empower you in your health care visits by helping you prepare for encounters you might have with the health care system–whether it is a routine doctor’s visit or an unexpected trip to the ER—and by helping you make the most out of your interactions with your health care professionals.

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Continue reading “Being Empowered for Your Health”

6 Causes of Fatigue that You Should Know

By Phoebe Chi, MD, MPH

Do you always feel tired? Do you often have difficulty getting through the day because of lack of energy? Sometimes, being tired is expected and normal (for example, after an all-nighter, after a bout of the flu, or after a busy non-stop week). However, if you find yourself always feeling worn out despite adequate rest, to the point your tiredness negatively affects your quality of life, it’s time to do something about it.

In this post, I will discuss six common health conditions that can lead to chronic fatigue. While this is by no means an exhaustive guide, these are conditions that frequently affect people and (for the most part) are easily diagnosable and treatable. In a subsequent post, I will discuss practical ways in which you can effectively combat your fatigue…regardless of the cause. 

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Continue reading “6 Causes of Fatigue that You Should Know”

5 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency You Should Know

By Phoebe Chi, MD

Vitamin D deficiency. Do you know the symptoms? How do you know if you are at risk of having it? What should you do if you are, and how do you prevent it? These are the questions I will answer today…

Continue reading “5 Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency You Should Know”

Let Us Care For One Another…

Dear friends,

May I tell you about someone? It’s about one courageous woman who has a beautiful heart who just happens to have a brain tumor. She has undergone surgery and a long bout of chemoradiation, and although she has fought hard and continues to fight to maintain the kind of ‘normal life’ someone as lucky as me would take for granted, she was forced to reach out.

Continue reading “Let Us Care For One Another…”

Ask This Doc: Q & A

Have you been wondering about anything?

Perhaps you have read something health-related on the internet but are not sure of its accuracy and would like the opinion of an impartial doctor…

Perhaps you just have a general question about how to improve your health…

I have noticed that many people have unanswered questions when it comes to health-related issues. Therefore, if you think I can help, I encourage you to ask them (of course this is not to replace your personal doctor’s advice, but just to offer you another source of information).

You are welcome to leave your question in the comment section or submit it to me directly. 

With love,
Phoebe

•      •      •

 *Remember, any information provided through this blog is solely for educational purposes and is not intended to be used in place of medical advice. Always consult your trusted health care provider before starting or changing any medications/supplements, diet, and exercise regimens.  

Pain Medications: Choosing the Right One for You

By Phoebe Chi, MD

Advil. Aleve. Tylenol. Aspirin. Four widely used over-the-counter medications. How do you know if you are taking the right one?

The purpose of this post is to familiarize you with the major pros and cons of these medications as well as to help you differentiate who should and should not take them. Even if you already have a “go-to” medication, make sure you know these essential facts, which is summarized in the table below.

Continue reading “Pain Medications: Choosing the Right One for You”

A Memory of Ground Beef.

Once when I was on a specialized heart failure service, I took care of a teenage boy. He had a form of idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy (a weak, enlarged heart), and he had a huge heart…in more ways than one.

He loved baseball, pumpkin pie, and horses. His family owned a farm, so before he got sick, he would often go horseback riding. He also loved to draw.

We—a team of five physicians—took care of him for a month while he was waiting for a heart transplant. He liked us. We liked him. So he drew us as well.

I thought he was clever. But he thought I was even more so. All because he liked my joke:

“What do you call a cow with no legs?”

“Ground beef.”

That was it. He was just a great kid, trying his best to live the life given to him.

It used to be, that at the end of our visits, we would both say to each other, “Ground beef!” with a wink and a huge smile. It perplexed the other physicians, but we knew exactly what we were talking about.

It was just a silly joke. But for the two of us, it somehow meant something more. 

I found out recently that he passed away. And today I found the drawing he gave me. And I wept.

So here’s to you, dear buddy…

Ground beef 😉

Isolation.

tb
• Monteagudo, Bolivia •

This is where tuberculosis patients, including little Luis’ father, were kept, quarantined away from other patients. It is quite different from the standard isolation facilities seen at most hospitals today, but this is all they had, and they made the most of it.

Outside is where little Luis played while visiting the hospital. 

And Puppydoc did end up getting latent TB after caring for the patients, but she took medicine and is now all better. 

☺️

The Hug.

Bitterness.
Each word, a slap.
Each consonant, piercing.
Bursting in like a winter’s storm,
you permeated into our lives.

We wanted to help you,
but we only came to fear you.
Many shook their heads in pity.
Some avoided you.
Others talked about you.

Contempt.
Each gesture, scornful.
Each insult, stinging.
My attempts to talk to you
only seemed to anger you more.

You terrified me. Yet I yearned.
To see. To know. To understand.

I knew you were frustrated.
Your disease, unforgiving.
Slowly devouring. 
I knew you were discouraged.
Your body, powerless.
Slowly succumbing.

But why wouldn’t you let us care for you?

Desperation.
Each day, the same.
Each encounter, fruitless.
You turned us away again and again. 
Until one day I confronted you. 
I asked you why.
And you told me.

I know you don’t really care. This is only your job. 

My job.

It all made sense.
The bitterness. The coldness. The distancing.
I understood.

Stepping forward,
leaving behind the pride, the decorum, 

my arms enclosed around you.
The fear escaping my racing heart
only after you made a move to wipe your eyes.

You then collapsed into me.
My shoulder, an insulation
to the sound of choked sobs.

You never said a word.
But in your cry I heard your anguish.
I heard desolation.
I heard relief.

Things were never the same after that.

Your bitterness was gone.
Your words, softer.
Your eyes, warmer.
You allowed us to care for you, 
remaining strong even
as your disease progressed.

Until one day, like winter’s snow, 
the seasons beckoned for you to leave.
But even then, as you faded away,
you reminded me of the day everything changed–

The day I gave you the hug. 

The Patient.

I met you my intern year. I remember the first thing you said to me.

“I don’t care to be here.”

With a countenance creased from decades of hardship, a gait staggered from illness, eyes steeled by sufferings, your restrained presence betrayed a sheath impervious. I believed you previously had poor experiences in similar settings, because you told me so. I knew you didn’t trust me, because you told me so.

Our first few visits were stippled with formality. I posed questions; you answered. But they weren’t your answers, but perhaps words you knew I wanted to hear. I half expected you to stop coming. But you never did. Instead, you continued to sit there, guarded, a portrait of cordiality and cautiousness. 

And then one day it happened.

Your hard gaze glimmering with moisture, I saw your shell break. I then got to know you. Little by little, visit by visit. I learned of the pain you endure. I learned of your frustrations, your desperation…your despair. I learned of your deep heart. I learned many things. But most importantly, I learned who you were.

Months went by. Gradually a smile seeped through. Your eyes now shined as you shared with me the latest on your life. A life that I was lucky enough to now be a part of. But suddenly three years pass, and as my time with the clinic comes to an end, we now must part. On your last visit, I sense your frustration and anguish again, and I think I understand why. As you cry I reassure you that everything will be okay. But as I comfort you I am struck by a sudden surge of emotion, and I also struggle to keep my composure.

You see, through this experience, I have started to recognize what it is you were talking about. An understanding. A connection. Some may even say a friendship. Because even though you may not know this, I am now happier because you are happier. Because you are now healthier, more satisfied. Full of life. 

Now as we part I feel the tearing of a piece of my soul. As we hug one last time the goodbye is silent and understood. But then you pull back, look me in the eyes, and say simply, “Thank you for helping me live.”

As I hold back my own tears, I realize I am thinking the same thing.

Thank you for helping me live.

When We Simply Stop Caring.

I see it all around me.

Burnout. To be burnt.

When we simply stop caring.

Most of the time we don’t even need
to say anything.
But you know.
You hear it in our voice.
You see it in our eyes.
And you feel it too.
You know what
is going through our
mind with each wayward glance.

Is this what I signed up for?
Is this all this profession has to offer? 

Because I have seen the articles.
To prevent physician burnout.
The A-B-C’s.
Changes we must make.
Limiting expectations. 
Self-empowerment.
Decreased hours. 
Putting us first.

I too used to be desperate.

What is happening to me?
What is happening to my colleagues?

What is happening to medicine?

But then one day, I saw you.

You.

Not you the patient.
You the person.
You’re just
a person.
You are me.
And you are hurting.
And maybe I am too, although
you may never know.

So I thank you for being here.

Not only do I want you to know that
I honor the privilege of being able to
help you, but you should know that
you have in your own way
taken care of me.

And I do care for you.

◊ A Physician’s Plea ◊

When the Heart Stops.

A cardiac arrest. A resuscitation made. A life recovered.
One patient tells me his experience.
This is his story.

Death.
Amid the chaos enclosing,
beseeched by an ambiance of ages to come,
I hear the seraph’s dulcet calls.
Immured by words 
divine and bittersweet,
they sculpt the frigid air,
and I am comforted.
As flesh is pierced, poisons forced,
I am held in tender embrace–
its whispers an oasis to the fears
that boil within my breast.

A skyward calling, its promised hope
glistens the starlight above me.
Memories, regret, longings and dreams–
a cycle ripened to revolve anew
cascades within my being.
I then behold a fleeting sight–
a son, wife, a father, my life–
their love commanding,
gazes imploring.

Therefore
with a strength untold

I fight
until with the sun
I am ushered
out of the grasp
of the ebbing eve.

I open my eyes.

 

•      •      •

◊ The Cardiac Arrest – A Physician’s Perspective ◊

•      •      •

 

I.C.U.

Lines, tubes, wires, chains.
Dignity stripped, cavities drained.
The metronome of your pulse above
the beeping orchestra, dissonant buzz.
Each gesture tracked, beat recorded,
breathing measured, life distorted.
Do you still feel free?

The body, its function a masterpiece to muse,
altered by poison, fluid infused.
Vesicles, vessels, organs affixed,
shrouded in blood, lymph intermixed.
Adhered in oneness by tendon and skin,
scarcely quickened by a pump grown dim.
Do you still feel strong?

Risen before the dawning sun,
a swarm of stoic white has come
to declare the status of your issues–
Liver, kidney, heart, lung, tissue.
To examine and prod, inspect then move
a person, a soul, or a number to improve?
I hope you still feel human.

The Arrest.

A code called.
She races
as the seas part
for her crossing.

Reposed before her–
rhythm without pulse,
fluid without flow,

substance without life–
is you.

Invaded
as lines in your thigh

penetrate a pump paralyzed,
as tube between ashen lips
thrusts into stagnant air.
Poison pushed into a heart
quivering, she watches as

your chest rises
with the force

of each counterfeit breath.

The symphony begins.

Thump
Shock delivered.
Strike through the breast.
Voltage down your limbs.
Buoyant, jerking,
Each retort
a life feigned by lightening.

Crunch
Bones crush.
The carol of ribs,
a surrender to the fury
of each compression,

quickens with her pounding heart.
Each chord
a dissonant harmony.

Glazed are your eyes
as they pulsate
with the cadence of their dance.
She looks at you.
Pleads for you to return.
Prays to the god she plays.
But your eyes plead for something more.

You leave her.

The story ends.

And the orchestra leaves.

•      •      •

◊ The Cardiac Arrest From a Patient’s Perspective ◊

•      •      •

The arrest

Malady.

Desperation.
Driven by disease
more clever than our hands,
you elude our grasp.

Come back.

Poison,
fighting for the soul

courses through your veins,
while the dusk

consumes the mind
of your decay.

Do you hear me calling?

Forsaken by a beast deceiving,
your breaths remains unmarred.
Spared by fiendish mercy,
your heart beats
undisturbed beneath the curtain
of a vacant shell.

I know you hear me calling.
I know you’re still there.
Perhaps our love will bring you back.

Come back to us.

The Sleep.

Rivulets of sorrow meandering
down tear-stained skin.

“Keep her comfortable
until it’s time.”   

Simple words-
echoes
of eternal reminder within.
You rise.

Guiding her
through the threshold
into the chill,

shudders
of realization emerge.

You survey
the molting trees,

their arid leaves
embellishing her hair
like fragments of
woven rhinestones.
As if they weep for her.
As if even the ambiances
of ages past are beseeching
her not to leave.

Soon arrives the Foehn,
holding you within
its warm embrace.
Its breaths,
whispering lines of truth,
sculpt a bittersweet tune
as they herald
the evening’s arrival.
You understand.

Cloaked
by lyrics of singing ivy,
her expression calms,
your fears dissolve.
Consoled by a draft possessive,
you cradle her
through the darkness
and follow her
toward the seraph’s call
into the fold of
midnight slumber.

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