Thursday, June 30, 2022

Farewell, Sweet Poopdeck.

William Ralph Draper, Sr. 10/8/1943 - 6/22/2022
What if missing your father was the singular burden he left behind for you? What if he was so present, so loving, so engaged, so proud, and so over-the-top supportive that you had nothing—I mean not one single thing—to wish he’d done for you? What if he fully equipped you with confidence and enough self-love for meaningful adult relationships through his exemplary love of your mother, his siblings, his cousins, and countless lifelong friends? And what if you had the chance to personally evolve into a loving, trusting grown up friendship with him? One distinctly different and special from the one you had with him as a child—and unique to you and no one else?
What if he not only told you how much he loved you for your entire life — but showed you through his actions and sacrifices? What if he cherished you and had such high expectations of you that you actually got to reach your full potential professionally and personally—and then be blessed to have him live long enough to bear witness to it? What if he got to know and love your spouse in addition to many of your closest friends—enough for them to have their very own connections, feelings, and memories of him, too? And what if all of this was amplified exponentially by the love, adoration, and influence he poured not only into his own grandchildren but generations of nieces, nephews, cousins, play cousins, and community kids as well? Imagine that.
Then all you’d have to do is miss him. And though missing him is a heavy load, it is a price we gladly pay for the intense, fulfilling, and comprehensive love God blessed us to know in the form of our father. For this, we are more grateful than sad. There is not a single regret left to bear.
Rest in power, sweet daddy. Thank you for leaving it all on the field as a father, a grandfather, a role model, and man. And especially thank you for the gift of showing up in every aspect of our lives—physically, emotionally, financially, collectively, and individually. We will forever speak your name and rejoice in your legacy. Job well done, sir. And just so you know—we were always proud of you, too, Daddy. And we always will be.
I knew that it would be important for me to share this news here since so many of you grew to know and love him through this blog. Though I'm not as active here these days, do know that he loved, loved, loved the way you celebrated his unforgettable Camp Papa summers and so much more. Thanks in advance for your outpouring of love, prayers, and condolences. Know that it is felt even if we don’t respond immediately. We are more glad than sad. And more grateful than anything else that all we have to do is miss him.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Look what the pandemic drug in.


Hey everybody!

I know it's been a while since you've heard from me. I hope all of you are doing well. 

How am I? I'm good, actually. The BHE and I celebrated our 17th year of marriage and both of those little boys that y'all remember so well will be in high school next year. High school, y'all!

I'm still at Grady and loving it. Oh! I got promoted to full professor in 2019. That was a huge deal for me as an academic physician. It's weird--getting promoted to the next rung on the academic ladder is always the goal. When I got that letter, I didn't really know what to do with myself. 


But let me share another reason why I was so pumped about it: Did you know that, as of 2019, there were 38,975 individuals who've achieved the rank of full professor at US medical schools? Guess how many of those 38,975 are Black women? 

*waits while you guess*

307. Yup. You read that right. 307, chile. That's less than 1%!

I am proud to say that number includes me. And I am even more determined than ever to help keep those underrepresented in medicine in the academic pipeline and increasing these numbers. 

Heck yeah.

Let's see. What else? 

Where have I been writing? Hmmm. These days mostly on Twitter. I'm at @gradydoctor there and have taken to telling stories through threaded tweets. It's been pretty fun to do. I still do some writing for journals and such. 

Here's something I published in The Lancet. I was pretty proud of it. I was especially proud to talk about my alma mater, Tuskegee. It's super frustrating to hear people equate our beautiful legacy to the awful untreated syphilis study that occurred in the area. I'm glad it got accepted for publication. 

Hmmm. What else?

Let's see. The pandemic hasn't been a cakewalk. I mean, fortunately, my family has been okay from a health perspective. But the juggle of school in the time of COVID with my professional responsibilities has been rough. I can't say that the school part has been my favorite. I'm hoping we can ease into some normalcy next year on that front. 


I'm still teaching students. Can you believe I'm about to be on my 8th small group? Yup. Small Group Theta is coming this July. Here are a few of my current babies from SG Eta. Small Groups Alpha, Beta, and Gamma are all done with training and bona fide in their fields. SGs Delta and Epsilon are trucking through residency and nearing the end of their training. Zeta just graduated and are all starting internships this week. 


I've been going pretty hard on community outreach and education around COVID. I guess when you see so much awful from it, it hits different, man. 


Oh! And one last thing. . . 

A few weeks ago,  a colleague and I started a podcast. Only about 4 weeks into it being live but it's been a really fun experience. If you are a podcast listening type, you can find it on Apple, Spotify, and Google Play. 


Whelp. That's it for now. Just wanted to check in and let everyone know I'm doing just fine. Sending each of you love and light, okay? 

That's all. 


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Perspective in the Time of COVID.

I am squatting in a corner with my hands over my ears.

Noise. It is too much noise.

About us. About me.
Because us is me.

It is inescapable.
So much noise.

Make it stop.

“Your people are dying.”

They are dying from a virus.
No, not that virus.
Oh wait. That virus, too.
I mean. . . yeah.

They are dying from:

Heart disease

And this.

More. Most.
Just fill in the blank.

We win.
But really, we lose.

We lose.

The baggage was left on front lawns in piles.
Centuries worth.
Maybe push it to the back yard?

Not yours, though.

Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Get A’s. Become a doctor. Right?

The same baggage spills out front.
Blocks the entrance and exit.

We lose.

The words. They are so awful. So hurtful.

A reference to a whale.
Another so bad I can’t find a metaphor.

Those words weren’t directed at me.
But they were, really.
Because us is me.
So they hit my jaw like a fist. Hard.

And that was just THIS week.



Which reminds me:

The other day our neighbors told us that, before we moved in, they came into our home.
Looked around.
Checked it out.
Furniture, photos, and all.

No human was shot. No character assassinated.
Not that time, at least.

A woman frantically calls 911.

“. . .an African-American man is threatening my life.”
A birdwatching one, no less.

When my dad had a heart attack, I said:
“Say you have chest pressure.”
To create urgency. And not get him overlooked.

I guess people say what they know will work.

A beloved elder in my family got hospitalized.
My dad calls me worried.

Dad: “He’s trying to leave the hospital, Kimberly.”
Me: “Why?”
Dad: “He’s scared he might die there. He doesn't trust them. And doesn’t want to be alone.”

What do you say to that?

I try to call. Straight to VM.

More noise.
Heated exchanges.
It’s all too much.
Especially now.

All of it is so loud. I try to press my hands tighter to my ears to drown it out.

I can’t.

I slowly peel my fingers away.
I stand up.

The noise is still there.
It's always there.

I drag in a breath of air and lean my head against the wall.
Swallowing hard.

Then I wait.
For my ears to acclimate.
Like always.
And they do.

But I don’t unhear.
I do not.

This is what it was like to be black this week.

At least for me.

A cacophony of noises clattering all around me.
In a pitch that I hear in Dolby stereo.


Plus an expectation for me to hold my head up
Do my job

And not startle.


But I thank God for the other sounds.

The clapping hands and snapping fingers.
The throaty laughs.
And that special interdental fricative in our vernacular that I recognize even by phone.

We are connected.
We have handled louder, worse noises.

And kept on singing

Do I want to be someone else?

Not for one day.

But still. Sometimes I do wish that I could--if only for a minute--turn down the noise.
Or turn it up so loud that everyone hears it the same.

Or will at least startle sometimes.
Yeah. That.

My sons are upstairs laughing and yelling at their video game.
My husband has the TV up way too loud watching the news. He calls out to me.

Him: "Babe? Did you see this? In Minneapolis?"
Me: *silence*

He shows me.

More. Most.

I can't unsee.
Or unhear.

We lose.

My loved one was discharged against medical advice--but is home now and okay.
Dad is less worried.


And with all of this noise, life is still happening.

What will our kids do this summer?
Son, why'd you get a B?
Text me as soon as you get there.


Sorry for the delay in replying to your emails.

This is what goes on.

Between revising rejected manuscripts, thinking about my patients, and clearing my inbox.
Between figuring out summer plans, washing dishes, folding laundry, and wondering what will happen with school next year.

For me. For us.

So right now? I’m just sitting at my kitchen table
listening to some Earth, Wind, & Fire

being black
writing down my feelings

and doing my best to just keep on singing.


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Bias landmines.

12: 01 P.M.

My intern was presenting this patient to me at this exact time. My tumbly was feeling pretty damn rumbly and lunch couldn't come soon enough. But we were almost there. Last patient of the morning. Fairly straightforward. Acute decompensated heart failure--one of the most common things we see.


I have to admit that I was glad it was something "bread and butter" and not something exotic. Nothing about this seemed to be a diagnostic conundrum. And that was a relief considering it had already been a long morning of medical mysteries. On top of that, I was hungry.

Real hungry.

Yup. I'm human so yes, I get hungry. And that can feel more urgent as the noon hour approaches. My mind wanders off for a second and then I mentally smack my own face. Terrible, I know. I shadowbox internally, ignore my growling stomach, and keep listening.

He described a youngish guy admitted for severely elevated blood pressure, heart failure, and fluid on his lungs. "He takes his medications faithfully," my intern said. "And, for the most part, he eats right. Not really sure why this current set back happened."

"Okay," I said. "Where does he get his meds?"

"Grady," he replied quickly. "Right at our pharmacy. And I checked to see if he's filling his meds and he totally is."

"Hmmm. Okay." I thought for a second. "And you said no dietary indiscretions?" My intern shook his head. My belly made another audible protest. "Chest pain?"

"Fleeting chest pain--but his EKG and cardiac enzymes are all normal."

Just then, there was an interruption. A man in a hospital gown shuffled past us, IV tubes dangling from his wrist and forearms. Definitely not much older or younger than me. The ashiness of his skin was amplified against his espresso-colored complexion. He looked over at my intern and smiled revealing the tell-tale dentition of limited resources and a hard life. "Just hitting this commode," he said in our direction.

"We'll be right there," my intern spoke back to the man. "Just telling my team about you."

And the patient nodded and disappeared behind the sliding door to his room.

"Hey--did you check a urine drug screen?"

My intern paused. "I actually didn't, Dr. M. But I did ask him about illicit drug use. He doesn't do any of that."

I nodded and twisted my mouth. "I'd recommend checking anyway."

He looked perplexed. "Check a UDS?"

"Yeah. Cocaine could unify all of this, honestly."

"But. . .he doesn't use cocaine."

"I've been burnt many times."

My intern's face flushed crimson. "Oh. Okay. Sorry about that."

And that was it.

Of course, you know what happened next. I walked in and met this gentleman who told me the exact same story. And the pharmacy record and his appointment history supported what he said. He denied any drug use and, on top of that, had prior screens that all were negative.


He just had bad heart failure. Period. And sometimes bad heart failure just misbehaves without much provocation. And yeah--he had eaten a little bit too much salt but that wasn't on purpose. It was because eating fresh, non-processed foods is expensive and hard. But the brother was trying. Damn, he was.

I gritted my teeth and felt my masseter bulging. Between my stomach growling and my intense remorse about the microaggression I'd just committed against my patient, it was hard to think straight.
Hallelujah for bread and butter medical problems.

We gave him IV diuretics to get fluid off. We optimized his blood pressure meds. We restricted his fluids. And we consulted the heart failure team. And that meant rounds were over. The team broke up and that was it. Before I could even think of a way to right my wrong.


I walked into our team room a few moments later and was relieved to find everyone there. They were all getting their lunches and preparing for the resident conference. I could already feel my face getting hot.

"Umm. . .guys? Can you give me a minute of your time?" They all sat down and obliged me. Even though I'm certain they were hungry, too. I cleared my throat and spoke. "I was wrong."

Their eyes all widened.

"Ummm. So yeah . . . . when Mr. Mackey walked by I sized him up. I saw a youngish, poor black man walking through Grady. And my bias was at play when I asked for that UDS. I looked at him and considered crack cocaine. I was wrong." My intern was staring intently. "I know if he was a white woman at Emory or even an insured black patient somewhere else, I probably wouldn't have suggested that. Please cancel the urine drug screen if it hasn't been collected yet." I sighed hard and looked at the patient's name on my list. "I'm sorry Mr. Mackey."

No one said anything. So I went on. "Look y'all. I'm a work in progress. I'm still messing it up sometimes, too. But I want to own my biases and do better, y'all."

My team was so gracious. After that, we discussed "bias landmines" such as being hungry, tired, rushed, or stretched too thin. We also talked about owning your biases and trying to do better. It was super powerful.

I cried as soon as they left the room. Not out of shame but more because I honored my patient and believe that I taught my team more about bias through that one moment than any lecture they could ever get.


Look, man. I do NOT have all this stuff figured out. Mr. Mackey fell in a group that I believe myself NOT to be biased against. Still, my actions said otherwise. That's what's so troubling about implicit bias. The heart feels one thing but the mind goes rogue.

And so. I call it what it is and vow to keep fighting. Fighting the monsters that hurt my patients and my community--even when that monster is me.


*name and details changed to protect anonymity

Stand by you.

"I'll stand by you." - Chrissy Hynde, The Pretenders

Rounds were over and, mostly, not much more had to be done other than write notes and arrange discharges. She, the resident physician working with me, was still at Grady. I was not.

That morning, things were fine. But then came the call from his nurse. A new complaint--one that hadn't been there before and that wasn't there on morning rounds. My diligent resident quickly went to assess the patient. Vital signs not normal. A heart beating over 120 times per minute, little beads of sweat on the forehead of a person who was cracking jokes just an hour before.


"He doesn't look good," she said to me over the phone. "I'm concerned about him."

And the way her voice sounded over the phone, I knew she meant it. Even crackling through my blue tooth car microphone, I could tell. I also knew because I'd been working with her all week and had seen her empathy in high def for nearly seven days already.

"What do you think is going on?" I asked. And, with that, she described everything she'd seen. A head to toe examination, a review of the labs, and a thoughtful differential diagnosis of things it could be.

"Does it sound like I'm missing something?"

"If I were by myself, I'd be thinking the same things," I replied. "I have nothing to add. This plan sounds very good."


"Would you like me to come up there?"

There was a pause. "I don't think so," she finally said. "I feel better since we talked through everything. But thank you for offering, Dr. Manning." And I could tell she meant that.

This woman is a senior resident. And not just that any senior resident. I highly competent, extraordinarily professional, incredibly thoughtful young physician with a knack for caring for the sickest of patients. Honestly? She was all over this. Her fund of knowledge in a lot of areas exceeds my own. In my head, I was saying these words: "You've got this." Because she did.

I came in anyway. It was almost 5pm.

Let me tell you what I saw when I got there: Exactly what she described without a single surprise. I examined the patient for myself, yes, but mostly? I simply came there to stand beside her.

I was standing at a computer scrolling through labs when she walked up. At first, I worried that she'd think it was because I didn't trust her. But as soon as she saw me, her face erupted into this complicated smile. "You came anyway," she said with a chuckle. Then she sighed this breath of relief.

"Yeah. I came to stand next to you. And worry with you. Is that okay?"

We both laughed and went to see our patient together. We talked to him and to each other and to radiologists and consultants. He was sick, too. And of all the people who looked the most relieved? He did. Having those two women standing side by side fretting about him on a sunny weekend day meant something.

I didn't say or do anything to change the ball my resident had put into motion already for this patient. It was she who saved a life that day--not me. I had nothing to add or change or suggest or modify. Nope. I just stood there, hands pushed down in my white coat pockets, nodding more than anything else.


Sometimes my job as a clinician-educator calls for lots of high-level medical knowledge. Other times, not so much. Either way, I came in because now I get it. What holds true for most aspects of life is true here, too: Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is just show up--show up, stand next to someone, and be there. And nothing else.

And this weekend, that's exactly what I did.



“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 
- Esther 4:14 NIV

A door had closed before her. It seemed like there was no way out. Some way, somehow our paths crossed.

She was miles away on the eastern seaboard and had somehow found my email. “I went to Clark Atlanta,” she said over the email. And that was when I knew. This medical student looked like me.

No. She wasn’t at my institution. But something about that message grabbed me that day. Was it the first such email I’d received asking for my help or attention? No. But something about this felt different. It’s hard to explain.

I was in Jury Duty so things were still. Her email crossed my box during an idle period and, as fate would have it, afforded her my full attention. I don’t think that was by accident.


Emails went back and forth for about 30 minutes. Then this lady with a flat voice spoke into a microphone. She rattled off some names in a monotone voice. “If I called your name, your case has been settled. Thank you for your service.” One of those names was mine.


An unexpected window. What to do? Call her. That’s what God laid on my heart. Her number was at the end of the email. Before I could overthink it, o decided to be obedient.

What happened next—you wouldn’t believe it unless you knew me personally. But here is what I will say: I've always thought that that, just maybe, that one moment in time was pre-appointed long before I ever even thought of becoming a doctor. Maybe even before I was born.

The best part is that I could feel it in that moment. I could feel that the universe was telling me loud and clear: This is your Esther moment. And so I held on tight to that idea and pushed. Trusting and believing and touching and agreeing.

But then? Just like that, the door that I thought I could open for her closed. I fell to my knees crying that day. “I did what You said!” I cried. “I was obedient!”

A friend told me to be still. So I did.

And then, a door opened. Not the door I expected. An entirely different door opened by someone entirely different—but to whom I was connected. She opened that door in a whole different state. We hadn’t even been talking. I’d just been writing. And her reading.

Whew. It was so big, so divine that I still struggle to wrap my head around it. This wasn’t MY Esther moment. It was OUR Esther moment. A moment for which we were BOTH created.


That girl from Clark Atlanta who cold-called me all those years ago? She walked straight through that open door and never looked back. Wait—I take that back. She only looks back to see who’s rattling the door handle trying to get in.

Today, as I was sitting alone quietly eating lunch at a soul food counter between rounds, guess who came up behind me and wrapped me in a hug? It was her. After all these years.

Dual board certified. An assistant professor and full time faculty member. Living the dream. At Grady Memorial Hospital of all places. Took everything in me not to cry into my black-eyed peas and collard greens.

“Wow.” That’s all I could say as she told me about all of the wonderful things she’d been doing.

“I will forever be grateful to you both. Forever I will.”

“And I will forever be grateful to God for letting us be there in that moment all together.”

She nodded and we hugged tight. Then I pulled her back, looked at her, and hugged her again. After that I snapped this picture to send to the other Esther so she, too, could feel all the same feels.

I do struggle sometimes with asks and recognizing my limitations. I can’t be everything to everyone. Sometimes I can’t be even a little something. But that moment taught me to just listen. Listen so that I know when I should.


What an ordinary lunch at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market this started out as today. Just like that ultra ordinary day in Jury Duty back in 2012. Now I know that nestled in every ordinary moment is the potential for something extraordinary just waiting to happen.

And maybe—just maybe—you were created for a moment such as this.


Happy Tuesday.

Breath regular.

On rounds the other day

Him: "You alright, doc?"
Me: "Me?"
Him: "Yeah you. You seem outta sorts."
Me: *smiles* "I'm in sorts I promise. Now tell me--how you doing?"
Him: "Feeling a little better today."
Me: "How's your wind?"
Him: "Way better."

I sit him up and carefully untie the back of his gown. On cue, he takes breaths in and out as I listen intently.

Me: "Lungs sound good." *moves around to front of chest* "You can just breathe regular."
Him: "I know."

After pressing my palm to his chest to feel his heart, I search his chest with stethoscope. Although it's not normal, it hasn't changed. Like always, he keeps making big gasps, forcing breaths in and out the whole time exaggeratedly.

Me: "It's okay. Just breath regular."
Him: "Sometimes you want to breathe regular but you can't."


Him: "Miss Manning?"
Me: "Sir?"
Him: "You okay?"
Me: "I'm okay."
Him: "You sure?"
Me: "Just got some bad news today about a friend is all. A friend who passed."


Him: "I'm sorry."
Me: "Yeah. Me, too. Was a real good dude. Through and through."
Him: "Damn. Shot?"
Me: "Nah."
Him: "Kids?"
Me: "Yup."
HIm: "Damn."


Him: "I knew you was out of sorts when I seent you."
Me: *taking a drag of air* "Yeah. You were right."
After that we just sat there for a few moments in silence. Then my patient asked me about my friend and I told him a really funny story about him. We both laughed out loud.
Me: "That dude was wild."
Him: "Sound like he was cool as hell."
Me:  “That he was.”


Him: "It's gon' be okay, Miss Manning."
Me: *eyes stinging and wanting to cry* "Yeah. Sometimes you want to breathe regular but you can't. You know?"
Him: *staring at me* "Yeah. . . I do know."

If you think the only ones doing the healing around Grady are the doctors and nurses? Think again. These patients save my life every single day.

Rest well, my friend. Praying we can all breathe regular soon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Full circle.

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

- Langston Hughes (1902 -1967)


1. In 1992, I applied to Emory University School of Medicine. And didn't even get an interview.

2. In 1992, I also applied to Case Western School of Medicine. Got an interview there. But got waitlisted for med school. And never came off the list.

3. In 1992, I started at Meharry Medical College--the school that felt right but that I feared attending because, after Tuskegee University, it would be my second historically black college. I worried it would hurt me in the future. I was wrong.

4. In 1996, I applied to Emory University School of Medicine for Internal Medicine Residency. And didn't even get an interview.

5. In 1996, I applied to several other programs for residency including one of the Case Western affiliates, MetroHealth. I took the interview there only because it coincided with my interview at The Cleveland Clinic. I ended up loving the program at CWRU/MetroHealth. Fortunately, they loved me back.

6. In 2000, I finished my residency at CWRU/MetroHealth and started my chief residency. That same year, I would be selected by the medical students at Case for honorary membership in Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society--one of the highest honors any medical student can achieve. At Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. The same school where I was waitlisted in 1992--and never got in. Yup.

7. In 2001, through a connection I made during my chief residency at CWRU, I applied for my dream job at Grady Hospital. Specifically with Emory University School of Medicine. The same place that didn't grant me an interview in 1992 or 1996. This time they not only interviewed me--they chose me.

Guess the third time was the charm.

One year ago today on April 24, 2018, I stood at a podium at the Emory University School of Medicine to deliver the keynote address for the 2018 Spring Banquet for their Alpha Omega Alpha chapter--a jewel in the academic crown for any medical student who achieves this distinction. When I finished I got a standing ovation. By the Emory students. By the Emory faculty attendees. And even by both the big Dean and the Dean of Admissions.

Talk about full circle, man.

And no. This isn't so much about Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society. It isn't. It's more about life and how delays aren't always denials.


That standing ovation felt good. But now? Here's what I know for sure:

No matter how dope you seem, accolades and collective handclaps from others should never define you--only effort and hustle. Becoming is always better than being. The doors that close on you can and will create new paths that make your life what it is supposed to be.

Thank you, Emory University School of Medicine-- for rejecting me not once but twice.

Thank you, Meharry Medical College for building me into exactly the doctor I was supposed to be.

Thank you, CWRU for putting me on your wait list, not admitting me to your medical school in 1992 and ultimately allowing me to grow there after medical school as a resident.

But especially thank you, Mr. Langston Hughes, for making me curious way back in 3rd grade of what happens to a dream deferred. Turns out that last line is right:

It explodes.



"Becoming is better than being." - Carol Dweck


#proudofmybecoming #growthmindset #smartswithouteffortisdead #putyourmouthpiecebackin #andstartswingingagain #itwasalwaysaboutgrady

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

The little girl who didn't cry wolf.

Your chest was hurting. This was your chief complaint. "Like pressure," you'd said. Then you shook your head and closed your eyes. Your hand pushed into the center of your chest for emphasis.

I asked what you were doing when it came on. You shrugged and insisted that it was nothing out of the usual. Then you scratched your shoulder vigorously. The suddenness of the gesture startled me.

"You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah," you said. "I just be itching sometimes."

I nodded. And then went back to the discussion.

Pressure like chest pain at rest that made you miserable enough to come to the emergency department. A little bit of shortness of breath. But not much. No numbness or tingling in your arms. You weren't exerting yourself in any way.


And yeah. You USED to use crack. But not any more. You were adamant.

"I fell to my knees," you said. "I was so tired, Miss Manning. I fell to my needs and asked God please. Please take this stronghold away from me."

I kept listening. Almost feeling like I didn't deserve to be on the other end of this testimony given my mood. My team was surrounding me during this conversation. They followed my lead, saying nothing.

You went on: "Then? Just like that. He took it away from me. I swear. It's been three whole months. THREE WHOLE MONTHS." You repeated that last part.

"Wow," I said. My 'wow' didn't sound wow-ish. It sounded mechanical and fake. My hand was rubbing the side of my neck. I was listening to you and watching you. Your eyes were dancing and your hands were animated. The laxity of your jaw as you spoke reminded me of the many heavy crack users I'd seen over the years and the patient years ago who pointed to Bobby Brown on the television and said, "That way he move his jaw like that? That's when you use a whole, whole bunch of crack." So yeah. This was what I was thinking about. The whole time that you were talking about what God had taken away from you.


I didn't fully believe you. Not that I didn't think you believed what you were saying. But I was tired. Very tired this day. And I just needed something to just bark exactly like a dog and say, "Hello. My name is Fido."


The third year medical student, however, was new to this. He'd heard your story and presented you to me as the last patient at the end of a busy day. And every drop of your kool aid, he'd lapped it all up, gleefully reporting your newfound abstinence. "I believe her," he said about you. His young face was emphatic and his greenish eyes glistening with advocacy and defiance. He repeated himself. "I believe her."

I wanted to. But my bias against you was so strong. And I was tired. Like so, so tired. Not take-a-nap tired. But emotionally tired of watching how this sickening crack epidemic decimated my people and how it was all beginning to feel like a hopeless version of that movie Groundhog Day.


I remembered what I'd learned about ways to fight bias. Being aware of triggers like exhaustion and such. And so I held your hand and did the things we do for chest pain. I nodded my head and mumbled words of affirmation about God's intervention like "Won't He do it."

Then I said sorry in my head right after that. To God for fronting and using his name in vain.

"We didn't check a urine drug screen," the student said outside of your room. "I mean, we can. But I will be so disappointed if it's positive."

I was tired. So I just dragged a breath of air and said, "Me, too. But still. Check it." Which he did.


Today when I came to see you, you looked so happy to see me. Your face was still full of light. The gladness in your eyes to see this black woman doctor was palpable. I could see it before I even turned the light on. "My doctor! Heeeeey Miss Manning!"

You reached for my hand. I grabbed it. "Hey sis," I said softly. Then I sat down. My face was serious. And my eyes almost immediately welled up with tears.

"What?" you queried. Your eyes looked worried. About ME. "What?"

I swallowed and gained my composure. "I owe you an apology." Your eyes widened. "I. . .I just got back your urine drug screen. The student didn't want to get it. But I insisted." You kept listening. "It was negative."

The expression on your face was inexplicable. Then what you did next surprised me. You held open your arms and asked for a hug. I obliged you.

"You be wanting to believe, don't you? But you can't always believe."

I nodded and sighed. "I do want to believe. I do."

"It's okay. That's the thing about a stronghold. It make reality and fantasy look like one and the same. Bet you heard a whole bunch of folks cry wolf before."

I tapped my foot and bit my lip so I wouldn't cry. "I am very proud of you. And so happy for you."

"And I believe you," you said. Then you squeezed my hand.

When I left your room, I went to a stairwell to cry. Mad with myself because every day I am preaching to my teams to believe that today could be the day. Here "today" was staring me in the face and my bias and exhaustion wouldn't let me believe it. Or at least try to believe it.


No. I don't have all this shit figured out. No, I do not. But you were right. I be wanting to believe. Damn, I do.


P.S. I told my medical student I was sorry, too.

Happy Wednesday.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Sister and the Warrior.

*as always, details changed to protect anonymity.

Afternoon rounds last week

Her: "Did you feel nervous when got that?"
Me: "When I got what?"
Her: *points at my wrist* "That."
Me: "Oh this? First yes. Then no."


Her: "Wow. I never saw a doctor with a tattoo on her wrist."
Me: "No?"
Her: "Nope."
Me: "So. . .I'm curious. How does that make you feel?"
Her: "I'm young. So it mostly make it seem like you cool."


Her: "Nawww, but real talk? I think it just make me know you a person."
Me: *listening*
Her: "Like, to me, a tatt supposed to tell a story. Like, it should mean something."
Me: "I like that."
Her: *pulls gown off of shoulder* "See this one? It say 'WARRIOR.' Because I been through so much with my health but I come through stronger every time. I'm always gon' fight back!" *kicks foot out of sheet to show her foot* "This one on my foot say 'Follow my footsteps.' That one remind me that even though some people let me down when I was little, I ain't no victim. I can create my own path, follow God's path and be somebody other people want to follow, you know what I'm sayin'?"
Me: "I do. That's dope."


Her: "I mean, you gotta be careful about where you get ink. And what it say. But you also got to do you." *covers feet back up with covers* "And you can't be drunk or nothing."
Me: *nodding* "I know that's right."

*fist bump*

Her: *points at my wrist again* "Okay. So what's the story behind that?"
Me: *turning my wrist to look at it* "Well. . . I lost a sister."
Her: "Oh man. Sorry."
Me: "Yeah. But she was awesome so I like remembering her this way. I also have another sister living. And I'm forever a sister to her, my sister who passed and to my brother. I believe in women having tight bonds so I'm a sister to my women friends. And then there's my sorority. . .that's another sisterhood I'm in."
Her: *smiling* "That's what's up."
Me: *still looking at my wrist* "Yeah. I was gonna put it somewhere else at first. But then I realized that I wanted to see it every day. So I put it here on my right wrist."


Her: "See? I told you a tattoo make people know you a person."
Me: *laughing* "I'm not so sure everyone would agree."
Her: "I think sick people don't care about that. They just want to know you a person who care and not a robot."


Her: "I saw that and you know what I thought?"
Me: "What's that?"
Her: "That sister gon' take care of me. 'Cause she got love in her heart for somebody."


Me: *wanting to cry so bad*
Her: *just staring at me smiling*

She seemed like she knew I wanted to cry.


Her: "I love your tattoo, Dr. Manning."
Me: *staring at my wrist again and smiling* "You know what, little sister? I love it, too."


Damn, I love this job.

Happy Monday.