End-stage starvation is rare, but devastating. After exhausting its fat stores, the body breaks down its organs for energy: muscle, liver, kidney and finally the heart. The blood itself becomes toxic, in a dangerously narrow balance between brain death and cardiac arrest. As a pediatrician, I wish to protect all children from these symptoms. But as an American taxpayer, I worry about my contribution to the starvation of children in Yemen. President Biden recently announced …
On the morning of January 6, I awoke ecstatic to the news of Reverend Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s predicted wins in the Georgia run-off elections. To be frank, I have become hesitant to hope while inured by the near-daily attacks on civil rights by the Trump administration via executive orders and federal policies. Over the past four years, I witnessed with pride — but also fear — as community activists tirelessly organized to combat racist policies.
As I check in on my patients each morning, I wonder if some will unexpectedly decompensate and die over the coming weeks. I think about myself and my co-residents who are in the hospital all day swabbing patients for COVID-19 without adequate personal protective equipment. Many of my co-residents are on home isolation as a result of this exposure, waiting for their test results and praying that our government will step up and fund more mask production, or civilians will return the N95s they’ve hoarded, or the set of a TV medical drama will donate their props to us.
Earlier last week, one patient had been referred in from their family physician, and the onsite senior resident, Adam, had been the doctor to assess them. Symptoms were vague — generally unwell, off food, bit of a cough, possible headache. Viral swabs were taken, because pretty much anyone that had lately walked through the hospital door with even a suspicion of sepsis now had samples sent off.
A quiet, frail, emaciated gentleman in his 60s who was dying of cancer. What made him different was that he was shackled to the bed, one arm and one leg bound to the bed of a barren room, lit only by the pale blue light from the window that cast the silhouette of bars on the floor. This was the prison unit.
For most of our childhoods growing up in the Midwest, the Iowa we called home was a swing state proud of its investments in education, was welcoming to refugees from around the world, and was the third US state to legalize marriage equality.
Melissa Palma, MD, MPH (5 Posts)
Resident Physician Contributing Writer
Melissa Palma is an Iowa-raised daughter of Filipino immigrants and aesculapian advocate. She trained in family medicine at safety-net community health centers and is a board-certified Preventive Medicine and Public Health physician in Chicago, IL. Her writing reflects on the privileges and responsibilities we have as physicians to advance health equity for our patients and our communities. When not in clinic, you can find her reading non-fiction while nursing a taro boba tea.