Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I approve this message.

Overheard the other day amongst a large group of kids playing tag:

Kid: Zack, you're so retarded!

Zachary:  (stops) Wait. What did you just say to me?

Kid:  Dude. I said you're retarded.

Zachary:  (scowls and shakes his head)  Dude. Seriously? Retarded? Not even cool to say that word like that. So not cool, dude.

Kid:  What? Retarded?

Zachary: Yeah, man. Not okay. And so not cool.

Kid:  Gosh. I was just playing.

Zachary:  Yeah. Well, don't play like that.

Kid:  Okay, I'm sorry. Hey! I think the girls are getting away!

Zachary: No they're not! Let's get 'em!

Both kids run off screaming. While I secretly feel like my chest might explode with pride.

Happy Wednesday.

That made me think of this. Shout out to Oliver, who's Elizabeth's son.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The tears of a clown.

Now if there's a smile on my face
It's only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that's quite a different subject
But don't let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I'm sad, oh sadder than sad
You're gone and I'm hurting so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad
Now there's some sad things known to man
But ain't too much sadder than
the tears of a clown
When there's no one around

from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles


"Why Judge Joe Brown got to talk like he reading off one them teleprompters? The-verdict-is-for-the-plain-tiff."

I laughed out loud when my patient said that. Not because his Judge Joe Brown observation was the funniest thing ever, but just because he was funny. Effortlessly so. He was just one of those people with humor shut up in his bones that just had to get out. His intonation, his mischievous expression, and just the timing of how he said things always induced laughter from any and every person around. And real laughter, too. Not just those obligatory giggles you give pseudo-funny people. My patient was hilarious--even when he wasn't trying to be. Although most times, funny was his intention.

"Judge Joe always look like he don't even want to be there, don't he?" He shook his head and laughed at his own observation. "Just look at him sitting there all mad and constipated-looking. He act like it's court-ordered, don't he?"

And me, I chuckled again because it had never occurred to me that Judge Joe Brown's staccato voice could be likened to someone badly reading flashcards nor had I noticed how his surly smirk could be mistaken for reluctance. This was what made talking to my patient so much fun. He always managed to point out the funny quirks of every day things which made caring for his not-so-everyday diagnosis just a little bit easier.

"What do you think about Judge Judy? She's my mom's favorite."

He narrowed his eyes and jutted out his bottom lip. It was so animated that I knew something funny would be coming next. "Oh, see, I couldn't go on Judge Judy's show. Naaaaahhh, not me."

I was already smiling back at him in anticipation. "I don't even want to ask why." 

"Maaaaan! You heard the way that lady be cutting folks off and going off before they even get a word in edgewise? Shoot, talk about catching a case! I'd be done jumped over that podium like a wildcat at that lady!"

"Oh no! You'd assault Judge Judy?"

"Naaw, doc. It wouldn't even get to that. 'Cause you know that black dude that stand on the side woulda had to put down his magazine long enough to try to stop me. Then, you know, me and dude would be scuffling on the ground and instead of me getting a $500 judgement I'll end up with a $5000 bail. See? Ain't even worth it."

He loved making me laugh and I loved egging him on. All of it was great. "That's a funny image."!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/article_1200/tv-judge-judy.jpg

"Okay. Real talk, though, Miss Manning. Real talk." Now he feigned a serious face. I folded my arms and twisted my mouth, knowing what he'd say would be anything but. "I would never, ever try to hurt ol' Judy. You know that about me, right?"

"I do know that about you, sir."

"But I would grab that doily-looking thang from 'round her neck. Now that I would do!"

We both erupted into fluffy laughs all over again and it was all easy and light.

But. His issues weren't. They weren't easy or light at all.

I gently waded into the purpose of my visit. "Mr. Floyd? Did they already take you down for the test?"

"Yeah, they did. And some lady with a soft voice but some man hands was the one who helped me get on the table. You ever seen a lady with the man hands? All pretty in the face but then hands big and muscular like she been chopping wood?" He shuddered like he was terrified.

"Oh wow. I sure hope I don't have the man hands, Mr. Floyd." I couldn't help but pause to laugh at that term "man hands." He seemed glad that I did. "Did it go okay, though? Your procedure?"

"I thank so. They said they got what they needed. And ol' Man Hands seemed satisfied."

I pressed my lips together and then sat down next to his bed on the nearby chair. His room was unusually barren. Not a single flower, card or balloon was there, even though he'd been with us for at least four days. When I asked him earlier about family, he brushed the question off saying that he mostly does for himself.

"Everybody needs somebody," I recall saying.

"But not everybody want to be needed," he quickly countered.

And what could you say to that?

The test he had confirmed the worst. Disease far more advanced than our medicine could handle. And even though we explained that part and told him of the things that could be done to improve his symptoms, he continued to crack jokes and keep things light instead of wrestling with the unpleasant facts before him.

"What do they do with somebody that pass but don't have money for a funeral?"

"Pardon?" That question surprised me. Even though he was going home with hospice care, I still didn't expect him to say that.

"I'm gon' call Willie Watkins' Funeral Home and see what kind of hook up I can get. Y'all don't have no coupons at Grady?"

This time my chuckle was less genuine. His words were funny, but mostly I felt sad. Sad that he was dying. Sad that he was talking about it like this. And even sadder that after four more days, there still wasn't any evidence that a loved one would be coming to his side.

"Mr. Floyd? I will be thinking about you a lot, okay? And I promise to never forget you, sir." That's what I said instead. I needed him to know that part because it was true.

"I 'preciate that, Miss Manning."

"I wish you didn't have to go through this. I really do."

"I know. But man plans and God laughs, right? At least that's what my grandmama used to say."

The corner of my mouth turned upward in a half-hearted smile. That was all I had at the moment.

"But you know, Miss Manning? Laughing is how I get through. I hope I die with a big smile on my face, too. And that I die mid-breath telling a joke to somebody or playing the dozens."

And something about that image brought out inexplicable emotion in me. Tears rushed to my eyes and fell too fast for me to blink them away. I wiped my cheeks with the heels of my hand and shook my head feeling embarrassed. "Uggggh. I'm sorry, Mr. Floyd."

He reached for my hand and squeezed it. "Thanks, hear?"

I felt awful for making my patient feel like he had to console me. Wrapping my hand around his, I nodded and tried to smile. Mr. Floyd placed his other hand over mine and patted it gently. "You know what, Miss Manning?" He cast his eyes down at our hands and then looked up into mine. His eyes were glistening with tears, too.

"What's that, sir?"

"You don't have the man hands." The tears evaporated from his eyes just enough to leave his signature twinkle of mischief.

And that time?  I did laugh out loud. And so did he.

This? This is Grady.

Happy Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . the song that always plays in my head when I think of him. They just don't make music like this anymore.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Can I get a witness?

First, a few random Easter musings. . .

Happy Easter, good people! It's a spectacular day in Georgia. A sky of the bluest blue, the grass has turned green, and the flowers are blooming in the most beautiful way. And considering how crappy our weather has been for the last several days, it's kind of nice to see that the sunshine got resurrected right along with Jesus.

Mmmm hmmm.

Despite a late night yesterday evening with the BHE, we still managed to make it to church in time to get the kids into children's church and still be able to sit in the main sanctuary. Everyone knows that the "CME" folks come out on Resurrection Sunday--that is, those who show up on Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter only. And you know? I'm not judging--I'm just saying, you know? If you want to sit in a chair in the main room at our church on Easter Sunday? You'll need to arrive early.

For reals.

Here's something super funny and random. At our church, they specifically ask us to dress ultra casual on Easter Sunday because they don't want folks to feel compelled to go spend a bunch of money that they don't have on suits, dresses and the like. It's obvi who got the memo and who didn't. So today it was like this dichotomous mish-mash dress code in the sanctuary: A lady in a pastel linen suit complete with ginormous hat right beside a young adult with blue jeans, a t-shirt and some vans. A man in some wingtips next to a girl in flip flops.

Okay, maybe not flip flops, but still. Super casz. The whole thing provided me great amusement, especially the looks on the faces of people when they realized they were terribly overdressed. (I admit, I felt kind of bad for the kids, though.) As for my kids? I assure you, they were EXTRA dusty and extra casual this week. Even dustier and casual-er than the Palm Sunday service last week--which is when these plaid shirt photos were snapped. Just add in one more week worth of hair and extra ashy legs and you'll get the picture.


Dang. How sucky must it be to come in your brand spankin' new Easter outfit and get directed to the overflow room to watch a screen? Talk about a buzzkill. I mean. . .not being able to parade your outfit in front of the congregation sort of defeats the purpose, doesn't it?

Jusssssst kidding.

I don't know what it is about being banished to the overflow room that destroys any church service for me. In this day of modern technology, you can watch an entire service on your laptop or iPad from the comfort of your bed. So someone routing me off to another room so that I can do (in church) what I could have been doing in bed puts my me in the wrong mindset. Yeah, yeah, I know the fellowship part is biblical, but I'm just being honest, man. The overflow room waters down my fellowship fuzzies. But that's a NON-ISSUE seeing as I indeed secured one of the last seats.

I was all like:

Umm, let's see? What else? Did I tell y'all about the day that Zachary's teacher told me that for "show and tell" he decided to demonstrate "the happy church dance" to his class? He saw someone at church getting filled with the spirit and dancing--so he took it upon himself to let them see it, too.

Kind of like your regular show and tell, but like a more. . .uhh. . . active version. And kind of like this lady, but like, Zachary doing it instead. And kind of like the congregation you see clapping but a bunch of first graders instead.

I still have no idea how to feel about that little report.

Uhhhh. . .yeah.

What other random things am I thinking of? Oh. Yes. This:

Virtual church is a trip, man. What I'm talking about is how you can watch just about any fairly large church from the web or listen via podcasts with such ease now. Even though my church membership is in one place, thanks to the internet, I totally feel like a member of more than one church. So, like I GO to my church. But I download podcasts and do all my long runs to Andy Stanley's church and follow each series. . . like. . .religiously.  

Mmm hmm.

Yeah. We used to call it "Bedside Baptist" when we missed service on Sunday. In fact, the exchange used to go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service today?"

"Naaah. I went to Bedside Baptist."

"Ooohhh, yeah! I know that church! With Reverend Pillow, right?"

"Yup. And Deacon Sheets."


But now with technology, you can be under the covers with headphones and an iPad mini or in your kitchen with a MacBook open watching the entire 9:30 service. There's even a space to take notes and a button to click and give an offering. Crazy, right?

So now I guess that exchange could also go like this:

"Did you make it to 9:30 service to day?"

"Yeah. But I was at the satellite location with Minister MacBook." 

"Oh, okay. I went to 7:15 with Evangelist iPad." 

"You should checkout Pastor Podcast when you get a minute. He's good, too."

Bwaah ha ha. Whew! Dang I'm witty.

Uh oh. 

Is it bad to be letting y'all in on my naughty secrets like this? Probably. But oh well. #dontjudgeme


Okay. So. . . actually none of that has anything to do with my original purpose for this post. Which I may have forgotten altogether with all that random rambling. . . .

Errrrrr. . . .

Oh! Yes. Okay, y'all. So in the spirit of Easter which, for me, is one of the most spiritual days of the year, I started thinking about some of my religious experiences at Grady Hospital. I always say that Grady feels like a ministry--and in all ministries, some days you are serving, other days you are getting served, or a lot of times, you're just bearing witness to it all. You know? Regardless of what you believe, I think we can all appreciate a spiritual experience. And at Grady, those happen all the time.

There's this word that is used a lot in Christian faith. It's an everyday word that's usually a noun, but when turned into a verb, the meaning changes. That word is "witness." See, to most, a witness is someone who saw something. But when used as a verb, witnessing means telling or showing someone what you've experienced. Some of my most memorable moments at Grady Hospital have come from those times where I've seen someone witnessing.

And nobody witnesses like the Grady elders. Here is the most magical of those times that I've ever experienced. Many of you will remember this story, reposted or rather resurrected from a 2011 post. But today, especially, I hope you'll revisit it.

The Grady chapel

Grady Hospital, November 2011

Working at Grady is like working in another little special country sometimes. There are things that are part of our normal here that in other places would seem odd or unusual. These are the things that make me love working at Grady so much.

On Monday the clinic was pretty busy. We finally wrapped up the last patient for that session, and at about 12:40, I sprinted down the stairwell and trucked through the hall on my way to get some food. I had only twenty minutes before being expected back so my brisk walk turned into a jog.  I waved to passersby and chuckled when a gentleman said in that very Grady way "Don't run nobody over, Doc!"

Purse on my shoulder, white coat on and heels clicking on the linoleum. . . .in quest of the Monday special at Subway and hoping the line wouldn't be horrible when I got there.  Just as I reached the E elevator area which is just before my turn to get out of the door, I heard something that made me slow down.

What is that?

I furrowed my brow, stood still and listened for a moment. That's when I figured it out. It was the voice of an aged male. . . singing at the TOP of his lungs. And weirdly it wasn't at the TOP of his lungs in a mentally ill or obnoxious way, either. It was in this way that seemed reminiscent of what it must have been like for folks picking cotton out in fields or scrubbing their floors on Saturdays. Not a performance type voice either. Just this loud and proud and unashamed voice bellowing out a Negro spiritual. . . .


I eased toward where the voice was coming from and laid eyes on the singer--an elderly African-American man appearing to be nearing his ninth decade. He was holding a cane and coat over his arm, and had simply decided to close his eyes, throw his head back and break out in song while waiting for the Grady elevator.

There were easily twenty people waiting in the vestibule with him. And you know what? None of them seemed the least bit fazed by this occurrence. Not the least bit.  In fact, several of them offered shouts of praise -- not to him per se, but those shouts that you hear in black churches after the first few stanzas of any gospel song-- meant not for the singer but technically for God.

He kept going in his wobbly voice:


I smiled as I watched,  taking it all in.  Then something even GRADY-er happened.  A woman that appeared to be no more than five years older or younger than this man JOINS IN with him. Yes! Joins in singing the same song equally as loud has he!  And they didn't even appear to know each other! She just came up beside him, lifting one hand to the heavens and not even really looking at him. But she was on his page most definitely. . . .her gravelly voice belting out through the corridor in that same unabashed tone. . .still punctuated by shouts of affirmation from others nearby.

And so in unison they continued:


It was absolutely beautiful.  Beautiful on so many levels, I tell you. Beautiful for me because, yes, I'm a believer, but beautiful beyond that, too. Here were two strangers -- both African-American elders -- who had surely lived through being spit at, called "boy" or "gal" and "nigger" or "nigra" and referred to collectively as "coloreds."  Who, if they were Georgians, had lived through a gubernatorial campaign with the motto "NO, NOT ONE!" for the leading candidate who promised to never let one--NO!Not one!--black child integrate a school in Georgia. (That candidate won by a landslide.)

They knew of a "White Grady" and a "Colored Grady" . . . a world with air conditioning on one side and open windows with flies and sweltering temperatures on the other.  Told that one of them equaled 2/3 a man and for this reason stood in protest with signs pleading with the world what should have been evident -- "I AM A MAN." They sat in the backs of buses and entered through back entrances. Withstood teenage boys with pink twisted snarls speaking to them like they were children just because of some false superiority in their skin color. Forced to say yes'm or no'suh to these same KIDS, despite the fact that they were young enough to be put over a knee. Or worse withstood poisonous words from the mouths of young adults that they themselves had raised.

And yet. Despite all of that, here they stood.  Strangers. Singing. . .still singing from the depths of their guts these simple words:

"I won't complain."

I didn't cry then. At the time it hadn't fully sunk in so I just smiled and then went on my way. But later on as I was driving home I thought about what they were singing and the sincerity in it. I let it sink in. . . the entire scene. . . . .and I did cry. Man, every time I imagined them and what they must have seen and lived through in their lifetimes more tears came. I felt so indebted to them.

Then I cried some more, feeling ashamed for the things I'd complained about that very day.

The Georgia governor who ran (and won) on the platform "No, Not One."

Source: Externe



This? This is Grady.

Happy Easter. May your good days outweigh your bad days, too.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . the EXACT rendition of the song they were singing that day. . .

This post is, hands down, one of my father's absolute favorites of all time. I just sat and listened to that song and those words again and relived that experience, hearing it as my father. His life is so different than it was when that post was originally written, but through his smile, his laugh and his love, he continues to witness just like these Grady elders.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Team S.J.G.R. Thursday Huddle: Ten Random Observations

Well. Look who got her act together and posted a Thursday huddle? 

*hand raised high in air*

What's up, team?  Checking in with everyone and gathering all you good people around for the world's most random Thursday huddle. Matter of fact, I even wrote a little top ten about it! Like to hear it? Here it go!

I bring you:


Let's go!

#10  Stop hiding, yo!

This was sitting RIGHT NEXT to my patient one day while I was talking to him. And I'm just sayin'. You've just GOT to respect somebody who keeps it THIS real.  None of that "No, Doctor, I don't smoke or drink" from this guy. Nope! Lighters and looseys all wrapped up in a rubber band. What? What!

*pumping fist*


Look. My point is this: Lying does you no good when you're dealing with your doctor. Keep it real about what you're doing or not doing. Don't hide that lump you felt or front like you are cutting carbs when you aren't. And especially don't lie about your medications. Imagine us doubling the blood pressure medication because we think you're taking it. . . .uhh. . .yeah. 

This picture? It MADE. MY. WEEK. Why? Because my patient said, "Me? I just keep thangs real, nah mean?" Ha!

Loosey = "one loose cigarette"

#9  Siri-iously?

Why does Siri's voice always seem to come in on the exact favorite part of any song you're listening to on your phone?  I was running one day and rocking out to Beyonce's "Flawless." Every single time she got to the best parts, that damn computerized-lady voice would come in telling me how fast I was running or what my split pace was or whatever. I kept rewinding but Siri would find something else to tell me. 

I decided I didn't like her anymore.

#8  Food versus Fitting

Can I just say this? There aren't too many foods that I like more than I like fitting my clothes. Well. Except Key Lime pie. 

Anyways. Case in point: I was in the hair salon and this woman walked in eating some Popeye's chicken. Now. I am the first to admit that I, like most folks, love that chicken from Popeye's, too. But. Not enough to sabotage fitting my clothes. Or feeling heart healthy. 

Popeye's? Yeah, that's on my "no" list. Remember--at a certain point in your grown up life you need a NO list. Foods that are just going to be a nuh-no. 

#croissants #cheesecake #mojitos #anydrinkwithsimplesyrup #potpies

#7  Master Cleansing.

Drink liquid only! Get all of the poop out of you that's making you heavy! Jump start your weight loss! Yes, do it! You'll look and feel great!

*insert eyeroll*

Cut. It. Out.

#6  Speaking of Beyonce. . . . 

"I ain't worried doing me tonight! A little sweat ain't never hurt nobody! Why y'all standing on the wall? I'm the one tonight gettin' bodied. . . "

You can burn a lot of calories by just pretending that you're her when no one is looking. I was listening to "Get Me Bodied" the other day and feel certain that I lost seven pounds in the six minutes that song was on. 

"Drop down low and sweep the floor with it. . . . " and my favorite "Do the Naomi Campbell walk! Naomi Campbell walk! Walk across the room like Naomi Campbell walk!"  

Ha. I was SOOOO fierce, y'all. Tell the truth. How many of you morph into someone else when certain songs come on? Come on. You can tell me.

Oh, and don't even get me started on my "Flawless" routine. . .. 

"I woke up li' dissssss. . . "

Beyoncé - ***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi... by beyoncehq

#5  Flat runs.

I mentioned this to some friends recently but it bears repeating. . . . 

I had this epiphany in Florida while running on the path near the beach. Flat runs suck. I mean royally. I ran literally 3 and a half miles and it felt like 3 million because it was such a flat course. Talk about MINDNUMBING. 

This is problematic. One, because I'm running a race in Chicago this summer which is SUPER flat. And second, because I'm running a race in Miami in the winter which is also FLAT. 


I need variation. How do y'all feel about that?

#4  Spinning? No, thank you.

Have I ever told you about the day I went to a spin class and came out with my hair completely soaking wet? Dude. Not cool.

Let me explain. First--I'm not a person who sweats in my scalp. I also turn into Kid from Kid 'n' Play when I unexpectedly get my hair wet. Yeah, so a long time ago I hit a spin class with a friend and agreed that it was the best workout ever. The class was at 6am and I had to go to work after.

Nothin' against Kid but that just wasn't the look I was going for. I haven't done a spin class since. 

#3  Change your shoes.

Hey runners, listen up! Have you been keeping track of your miles on your running shoes? If not, you should. Even if your runners look good, after like 300 - 400 miles, you'll start getting all 'flicted if you keep running in them. 

Yes. 'flicted. Not to be confused with AFFLICTED.

#2  Health care bills.

Here's a question: Why must we receive the scary "this is not bill" bill before getting the real bill? The lady at Aetna told me that it's just "the explanation of benefits." Look, people. Just tell me what I owe.


#1 Feeder-friends

Watch out for your friends who eat whatever they want whenever they want. And who like to go drink all the time. They can jack you for an easy 1,000 calories on one evening of socializing. 


You can also counter this by selecting the activity. A walk or coffee is a good alternative. Or just make sure you meet up somewhere that allows you to order something that won't destroy your waistline. 

"Let's go to Fellini's Pizza!"

"Girlfriend, I love Fellini's but Fellini's don't love me. How about (insert suggestion that has healthy selections)?"

Oh, and before I forget. Mojitos, though chic looking, are FULL O' SUGAR. Which means they are fattening. So. . . . me and mojitos are not friends. Nope.

Shut those feeder-friends down before you need a new wardrobe. 

Okay. That's all I got for now. Hollaaaaaaaaa!

Happy Thursday.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Secret recipe.

Today at Grady, image shared and taken with my patient's permission. 

She said the secret ingredient in her homemade sweet potato pie was love. But next time I see her I'm going to let her know that I think she also might've stuck her foot in it.

Hee hee.

*wipes crumbs from mouth*

(Oh, and If you don't know what it means to put your foot in something, just ask somebody from the country like my daddy. That or you can look it up on urban dictionary.)

Happy Monday. And may you, too, have something that someone put their foot into.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Reflections of an E.N.T. Resident.

Day #1010
2 a.m.
Consciousness waivers.
Confidence cracks.
Resolve thins.
Relationships crumble.
Hunger pains.

And all of these thoughts descend upon me like a sunset
in these precious few moments of silence.

Then the pager blares.
The phone rings.
My legs pump.
The room is crowded.
The blood is on the ceiling.
The machines wail.
My hands move.
The knife slides deep into his neck.
The air escapes from the trachea.
And the room is just a little bit louder. . . .

Because there is one more person breathing in it
than there was 15 seconds ago.

Because I knew what to do with the blade
that I always carry in my back pocket.

Your next breath is not promised.
Love and appreciate each one.

~ Anthony Chin-Quee, Jr., MD, Senior Resident in ENT
Emory University SOM '11, Small Group Alpha

picture in a Michigan call room, Dr Chin-Quee, ENT resident


These are the kinds of messages I get from them sometimes--my current and former students. This poem and the accompanying images (shared with Tony's permission) came to me via text message early this morning from one of my former small group advisees. I've known this young man since his very first day of medical school and had the honor of placing a doctoral hood over his head on that very last day. If we're lucky, those relationships don't end there. 


Man. I'm so moved that, even though he's in the late adolescence of his medical training and even though he's many states away from me now, he chooses to share things like this. And even think things like this.

But how do I mostly feel? Excited. Excited for all of us that there are young physicians like Tony and the many others I know personally. . . . waiting in the wings to save our lives. 

If I haven't told you lately, I'm proud of you, Tony. We all are.

Happy Saturday. You can read another poem from Tony here and read a post inspired by him here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Life in Pictures: Too good for words.

These are some of the sweetest days they'll know. And I pray that they remember them all. . . no, not individually. . .but just as one big blob of happiness that they refer to as "their childhood." I sure will.


Happy Spring Break. (Also known as a great excuse to live and love like you mean it without school or work in the way.)