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Editor's Commentary on 'Deer in the Headlights'

 , June 06, 2014

“I know I'll never see her again / And I see myself for what I am. / An intruder. / A bearer of chart records and life stories and deep dark secrets.”

We are given these words from the poem “Deer in the Headlights” by Bartholomew Simon. In this poem, the author takes us on a house call to visit a sick woman. After a few introductory words she opens up, revealing her deepest secrets to a relative stranger. In medicine, we are often granted access to secrets that would otherwise remain buried, truths that can change lives. And we carry the burden of holding these secrets, battling judgment and prejudice while calculating probabilities and risks. Then the appointment ends and we exit their lives as quickly as we entered. But we carry with us the residue of their stories and a better understanding of the twists and turns that make us all human. What do we leave behind with our patients?

Bryan Sisk, MD
Deputy Editor, The Living Hand