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?”
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.
Meet little Luis– otherwise known as Puppydoc’s partner in crime. He was a regular visitor to the hospital, as his father had tuberculosis and was undergoing a long course of treatment.
Since the hospital was a scary place for Luis, we always tried to make the visit pleasant for him. In short, what began as innocent playing quickly escalated to mischievousness as little Luis and Puppydoc discovered the treasure that was the hospital candy stash.
As you can imagine, the supply rapidly diminished into their tummies.
(But don’t worry; Puppydoc later replenished the stolen candy with a fresh stock of Dum Dums.)
Meet the Aguado household. A place where love runs deep…simple are the joys…and wide are the smiles that shield the scars aching to heal beneath.
Here we see one of the effects of inaccessible health care. Where fathers lose their lives to otherwise treatable diseases, leaving two mothers and seven children with little more than the lingering fragrance of memories.
Here we also see a strength undeniable. Where the youngest to the eldest come together to care for one another…encourage one another…support one another.
And finally, we see ‘little Juan,’ whose palpable nonchalance tells you really all that you need to know:
Founded in 2013 by Phoebe Chi, MD, PhoebeMD: Medicine + Poetry is a health information and literary arts website that aims to inspire, empower, and inform through a curated mix of essential health information, uplifting personal stories, and original poetry.