I used to have a regular stint on ResidentDiary.com, but after eight months of random readers writing harsh, unprovoked comments and some writers' block on my part, I pulled the plug and set out on my own. So here I am. I can write about medicine or not. I can write in verse or not. The choices are endless! I continue to be a resident in Internal Medicine, but I am finally done with internship. I don't recommend two internships to anyone. And I wonder daily why I'm so tired and whether or not it's my thyroid. [It's not.]
I will be sure to post some poetry, even some plays, in the future, but for now, let's start with a short story. A vignette, if you will.
I went to Catholic mass and heard my pastor preach about sin. He had his right hand in the air, I presume, pointing to God, and a large hardcover Bible cradled in the crook of his left arm. He looked quite holy and kind of scary, but strong. This is my pastor, I thought to myself. My pastor, whom I have seen naked twice.
He was in the military before he became a priest. I took care of him when he came in for chest pain at the local Veterans’ Affairs Medical Center. His voice sounded calm and deep, a quality in it deserving of reverence. I didn’t know whether to call him Father or Sir or Mr. He was half-dressed in a hospital gown and reading a novel by the window. He was a tall, thin man who thought he had a heart attack.
I perused his medical records. I asked him if he was taking his anti-retroviral medications daily. He said, Yes. My viral load has always been undetectable and my CD4 count above 350.
I nodded, penned his answers in my notes. I would schedule him for a stress test. His cardiac enzymes were negative, normal. He likely did not have a heart attack, but we wanted to be sure. I never asked him the one question everyone wanted to ask him but could and did not have a medically relevant reason to do so: How did you contract HIV?
Instead, I asked, How many sexual partners have you had in the last year?
I asked, Do you use protection? Every time?
I asked every question around the actual question. Perhaps I myself did not want to know. When I saw him again, months later, in church, he seemed to look through me. I don’t think he knew who I was. When I receive the holy host from his fingers each Sunday, I avert my eyes, and I have a feeling he knows who I am, but he chooses not to know.