Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's all about you.

"There's no need to feel you're on your own
just let your intuition guide you through
Take one step toward what you believe
Don't be afraid to make your move

In my head, those words remind me what
Grandma said -- At times you'll feel a sting
There'll be sharp turns and uphills and closed doors.
This she said -- Hold onto your faith
'cause in this world you got to go and get yours. . .

So you stand up
and be strong
Go out there
Hold on
To the real things that matter
'cause no one's gonna hand it to you on a silver platter."

~ from Brother Sister by the Brand New Heavies


Last weekend, Harry and I went to this big ol' summer soiree. The event was called "Sundresses and Seersuckers" and was the signature fundraising event for my husband's fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. Held in an outdoor lawn amphitheater and planned with painstaking detail, everything from wrist bands to portable potties had been discussed, voted upon, and then rediscussed and revoted upon. The reason I know this is because Harry was one of the key organizers, and literally, this thing had our lives turned upside down for the last six months. As we drum-rolled closer to the big night, we both got a little obsessive compulsive about what we'd wear. I know, I know. . .it isn't necessarily an earthshattering problem to deal with, but stay with me. . .I'm going somewhere with this. . . . .

After a few weeks of perusing my favorite shopping haunts (that would be Target and Loehmann's--hello?) I finally found this amazing full length sundress and had decided to pair it with a special pair of feather earrings that had been handmade and given to me by Parissa, one of our recently graduated medical students. When I tried on the whole ensemble, I felt good and happy and confident and right. I even danced like Beyonce in the mirror a few times and would have done a few Lady Gaga moves if Zachary hadn't walked in.

Yep. I felt that good.

On this picture my earrings make it look like I have a mullet, but trust me they're rad!

On Friday evening (the eve of the event), Harry proudly showed me his seersucker vest and linen trousers--all pressed and ready for this lovely evening jazz event on the lawn. "Let me see what you're wearing, Babe," he said in the most unassuming way ever. And it was unassuming because he had no ulterior motive. He just wanted to see what I was wearing, too. And seeing as just the night before I was dancing like Beyonce, you'd think that I would have shown him in two seconds flat. But I didn't.

"No," I told him, "because I really like what I've chosen and if you're all like 'mehhh' when you see it, my feelings are going to be hurt."

Harry groaned and responded, "Ugggh! You are so sensitive! You know I'm going to think you look beautiful no matter what! Show me!"

I shook my head and didn't budge. "Nope. Anything short of your mouth falling open and drool coming from your mouth will be unacceptable, so no!" I started laughing and blocking my closet with my outstretched arms. "I'll be like a bride. . .where you'll have no choice but to tell me I look gorrrrrr-geeous when you see me tomorrow!"

Harry just shook his head in that way he often does when he used to say, "Crazy girl"--but doesn't say any more because I told him that calling me "crazy girl" wasn't nice. Just like I used to tell him that calling me "oversensitive" wasn't nice, so he stopped saying "oversensitive" and instead replaced it with just "so sensitive." I think those changes took place because I was being well. . . sensitive.

Harry is right. I am very sensitive. In fact, don't tell him this, but I will even admit that I'm even a bit oversensitive at times. I often hope I'm not hurting someone's feelings and then, if I think I did, I worry. I get choked up when patients are in the hospital for prolonged periods of time and they don't have flowers. So much so that I consider buying them some. But most of all I ruminate a wee bit too much over unexpected criticism. (The key word there is unexpected since most of my shortcomings I've spent countless hours already analyzing. . . um, yeah.)

Yeah, it's true. Despite how confident I might seem. . .ah hem. . . I'm sensitive like that. About some things.

Today, I'm feeling sensitive-- and maybe even oversensitive-- about something that I almost always feel very confident about: how I feel about my Grady patients. Working and teaching-- and then writing about Grady Hospital has been a joy that is indescribable. These narratives have allowed me to introduce you to the amazing people, moments, learners and lessons that I've been afforded for the last decade. . . .


I love Grady. And what makes Grady Grady is the people inside of it. . .the patients, the staff, the physicians, the students, the families. I try my hardest to make this blog a neverending love letter to Grady and to life. . . and an opportunity to pay those lessons forward. These feel-good moments are no longer just my own. . . now they have become those of someone else, too. And for this reason, I generally feel my most confident when wrapped in my cocoon of Grady stories.

Until today. Instead of my top ten, I wanted to share something that happened today that has me reflecting. I hope you don't mind. . . . .

Today, I received this comment in my comment box:

"Today will be my last day reading your blog. I think you are a gifted writer and I enjoy your writing style. However, although you may not see it, you degrade your patients from the (rural) South and make snide comments on their literacy quite often. I know that you write in this broken English to illustrate their vernacular but it's a bit rude to me. Your kids are now from the South - how would you feel if a Doctor questioned their literacy right off the bat? Made fun of their accent (if they were to have or develop one?) Best of luck in your future endeavors."
by Anonymous on You had me at "Oh, Hell No!"


At first I clicked "spam" and in my most don't care voice, decided that I'd just say "yeah, whatever." But because I believe that self reflection is important--particularly in the face of criticism--I allowed myself to ponder what this anonymous reader felt strongly enough about to type into Blogger.


I know that one of my girlfriends would say, "Girl, please! You are not about to address that are you? Don't even give it any airplay!" But that's not me. I am sensitive. And not just sensitive in that silly way I was about Harry liking my fancy feather earrings that were handmade by a med student-- but sensitive to an accusation that I degrade or make fun of a people and a place that I deeply and genuinely love.

So. I thought about those words. I read them and reread them again and let them sting my cheeks. I searched for the truth in them, sifting them like a goldminer's screened pan for some golden ah hah moment to emerge glistening like a precious metal in the sun.

Then, as sensitive as I am--I told myself what I know in my heart is the truth. It's not about a critical comment. It's all about Grady.

Sure, it makes me feel a bit bummed to know that someone somewhere thinks that I knowingly or unknowingly degrade or belittle my rural Southern patients (or patients from anywhere for that matter.) No, it doesn't feel good to think that creating the real voices of my patients when I write is offending someone somewhere. But. What I know for sure is this--those feelings aren't the ones that made me feel uneasy. It is only the thought that a patient or their loved one might feel that way, too. And I could be wrong, but my sense is that the person who wrote that well thought out comment--with all due respect--was neither of these.

And so. This is not a response to Anonymous' comment, although I deeply respect it and appreciate the raw honesty. (Hell, I wouldn't continue reading anything that I found offensive or degrading either.) So, for Anonymous, all I will say is that I have appreciated you reading, because I have.

Now. This part is a response. And please know that, no, this was not my first not-so-pleasant comment, and no, I don't agonize over everything. But this--this was different. So this response is for my patients at Grady and all of those somehow connected to this beautiful magical place that, day after day, serves as my home away from home, my church away from church, and my school away from school.


Dearest Grady,

This month marks our ten year anniversary together. I can't believe it's been ten years, but the more I think of all that has happened in this time, the more I realize that it has been a decade indeed.

When we first met, I was a single girl about town. . .fresh out of a chief residency and slightly terrified of your larger-than-life persona, fire-breathing clinical settings, and legendary reputation for turning boys and girls into men and women. Ten years later, I am a wife and a mother of two. I'm a residency program director, a student advisor, and even someone who gets to be on television-- but still in many ways, that same little person . . . . still in awe of all that you encompass.

Early after I started here, I realized that I loved you. Maybe even before. Your imperfections, your laughter, your tears, your triumphs, your tragedies, and even your tendency to climb into the back seat of my car and ride home with me every single day. Yes, I loved you from the start.

It first began with stories to my family and to medical students. I'd tell them all the things you'd told me and taught me. I'd share your best jokes, making sure to get the punchlines correct and the comic timing just right. I couldn't wait to paint a picture of the stories you'd given me that tugged on my heart strings then and still some ten years later.

Because I loved you, I wanted them to first know you and then love you, too. The real you, you know? Not just the one that folks think of when there's been a drive by shooting or a three car pile up. But the you nobody really knows unless they pull up a chair, take off their coat, and get comfortable for a while. For this reason, I began writing about you and sharing you with the world.

At first, I agonized over parts of the introduction. Should I use your name? But how can I really do you justice if I don't? And so I introduced you by your God-given name. Fortunately, your "parents" were okay with that, and I have been careful about honoring their kindness in letting me do so. Next, I wondered about your voice. Should I let them hear your voice? I quickly decided that of course I should because your voice is beautiful. And even if sometimes it looks a bit odd to someone when they read and then hear your voice, the one I try my hardest to use is yours. To me, it sounds like music. . . .not funny or foreign or inferior. . . like music.

I apologize if I've ever said or done something that made it sound like I thought I was someone better than you, because you have to know--I do not. I try with all my might to show the piece of you in every single one of us, the piece of you inside of me. You just have to believe that.

Someone I introduced you to once said to me, "there are no 'those people'." I loved that comment because it embraces the best you have to teach. There are no those people. People, yes. But not "those."

Thank you for all you have done for me. Thank you for holding my hand, for allowing me to (almost) beatbox on a corner in my white coat, for letting me cry right there in front of you, for making me laugh so hard that I thought I would faint, for helping me to understand my own family better and most of all, for continuing to never have an end to what you teach me. You make me a better mother, a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better doctor, a better teacher, a better believer, a better me. You've reminded me of what really matters. . . .and how to hold on to the real things that matter. . . .

. . . And I just have to believe that if you've done that for me, that every time I introduce you--yes, the real you-- to someone, you're doing it a little bit for them, too.

With love and gratitude,

Grady doctor

Now playing on my mental iPod . . . . . .


  1. Forget the critic! Your post today was so heartwarming, so human, so real...don't ever stop your openness!

    Part of the charm of your writing is the language you use in your posts of some of your patients. What you write about them is sooooo loving, so heart rending, and so very real. I love your word pictures, in fact, I love your patients, each so special when described by you.

    Your post on the lady's celebration of life was a marvelous tribute to her specialness. I felt like I would have given anything to have known her and had her in my life. You radiate love in your writings and I have never sensed one shade of putting yourself above others. In fact, I am so impressed with the humbleness you portray as you write of these precious patients of yours!

    Fifty Five years ago, I was a medical social worker at the U of O med school. Since it was a teaching hospital, we treated many of the state's poor. I fell in love with every patient to whom I was assigned. Each had their own story, their own heart aches, and their own triumphs. It was a wonderful two year experience for a young girl right out of school.

    Your blog is warming my heart because, through you, I am meeting your family, your patients, your precious students, and your many friends.

    Thank you for this blog. my dear. Your offerings bring much pleasure to this old granny's heart!

  2. Look- people talk the way they talk. To those of us who live in the South, or to me, at least, my ear hears the truth of the speech as you write it. There is a lyricism to it, there is a beauty.
    And I think you are being honest and respectful.
    So that's my two cents.

  3. Dr.Manning,
    The very fact that you took pause to consider the implications of your writing on those whom you care for and their loved ones speaks volumes about your character as a physician, a human being and a child of GOD. When it is all said and done, only you and HE know what is truly in your heart-I have no doubt that HE is pleased with you: no doubt at all. You are hands down my favorite blog ; You are part of my daily readings and I consider myself fortunate to have stumbled upon you.
    As you well know, there will always be those people who want to put forth negativity to your positive efforts: keep doing what you do-you are an amazing individual.


    Dr. Shindler

  4. Your blog allows your readers insight and provides a different perspective to patients/people. Your use of a southern dialict makes you feel as if you are right there. You write with compassion, love & empathy! It speaks volumes that the comment evoked such emotion!!

  5. I think it is wonderful that you considered the comments from your reader, but since when is southern talk or vernacular less than the "Kings English?" We all speak the way we do because others around us speak that way and reinforce that speech pattern. Yes we can choose to speak casually or more formally if we have been educated about grammar and such, but those that speak in a way that is different than the way I speak are not LESS THAN, merely DIFFERENT FROM. Perhaps the problem is education, but perhaps the person likes that speech pattern and chooses to speak in a way that his neighbors and friends speak. I think your use of dialect is way to make your patients real to us who don't know them. Keep up the great writing and "keep calm and carry on" as the British say.

  6. lets not get started on wack comments! (you know what i'm taking about)
    you know you- i know you- most of us know you-
    and if someone is missing it- their loss-
    you can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time.

  7. I haven't been reading long. However, in the short time that I've been here and from what I've read I can't imagine you degrading anyone, least of all your patients. On the contrary, you seem to have immense regard/respect for them.

    Let me also say that part of what keeps me coming back is your ability to convey the voices of your patients. They ring both true and familiar (and I'm from/in the north).

    If that commenter chooses not to return (honestly, I seriously doubt s/he will stay away) then it will be his/her loss. I hope s/he takes a moment to consider their reaction to someone else's truth.

  8. Wow. I'm glad that you posted this. I definitely wouldn't read if I thought that what you were writing was offensive or intended to be offensive. People talk the way that they talk. That's it. There's no accent that's 'better' than any other. I talk differently to you, and you talk differently to a lot of your patients. It's just from where we've all been raised. You're by far my favourite blogger.

    And I may not be the typical grown GRITS that reads you blog, but you've taught me so much about the world. You are my role model; a little beam of sunlight and hope everyday. My favourites are when you write about your patients and you when you were my age. I hope that one day I can be half as amazing as you. :)

  9. So, I just had to come out of lurkdom to comment on this post. I can be the same way when it comes to the sensitive thing so I understand why you scrutinized yourself. But, you absolutely MUST continue writing just like you have been. When you use their vernacular (which is mine too as I'm from the deep south) it makes the conversation so much more alive and realistic. It's no different from reading novels where the speech is written exactly as it may have been said to give the reader a better picture.

  10. Dr. Manning,
    I started reading your blog just a few months ago, and it is one of my favorites. Thank you for these stories, for your open heart and open mind. I think the way you represent the speech of your patients and people whose stories you tell makes the text so much more lively - I feel as if I'm right there, listening beside you.

  11. I know so well what you're about, so I don't really feel the need to rush to your defense---but I couldn't resist.

    Ever give a lecture that you think is the bomb and when you get your evaluation back, 99% of the group gave 4s or 5s (out of a possible 5), but someone in the audience gives you a 2? This is just what this is. Chalk it up to you can't make everyone happy.

    Look on the bright side. The person was complimentary to your writing! However, "anonymous" should know that any gifted writer has a way of taking their readers along with them for the journey. In your case it's often to the bedside. No example does that better than by giving your patients their own voice. As one comment said, it's no better, no worse, just their voice.

    You honor your patients and all those who read your blog by being so introspective. Comments like the one from "anonymous" allow us to confirm as a community just how wonderful you are and how much richer Grady has been for your 10 years of faithful service (and counting).

  12. Thank you for your blog.

    By using the vernacular of the south in your posts I feel I am there and I get a clearer glimpse of southern life.

    I have always felt you tell it like it is with passion, compassion and insight to the soul.

    Please disregard that ill conceived comment. Just that fact that they posted as "anonymous" shows that they do not have "the right stuff."

    Keep on telling us about Grady and your life, I visit every day and come away with hope and joy in my heart. Thank you.

  13. Dear Dr. M:
    I know, having read your blog long enough (came over from Smacksy - she rocks too) that this was not a post aimed at grabbing supportive, "you go girl, to hell with the critics" kind of response. I am still sniffling a little over your love letter to Grady.
    But, and I've been meaning to do this for quite a while, I do want to make a general comment about your blog. I'm currently going through the most difficult time in my life right now, and while I have read many blogs over the years, I've recently winnowed these down to only the ones that make me think, make me smile, that I feel connected with. No more negative, self-absorbed downers. And yours, well, it's at the top of the list. You make me cry at least twice a week (the good kind, not the ugly cry), always make me think and smile and feel uplifted. So thanks, and please keep on writing. You write Grady so real that I feel like I know it, even though I'm about as far away from it as you could get and still be in North America. And through you, I kinda love Grady too, you know?
    ps: to the critic - kudos for expressing yourself politely and succinctly, and for moving on. I think any blogger would prefer this type of disagreement, and would recognize that not everyone is going to agree with everything they write.
    pss: as to writing in dialect being degrading - I'm from Newfoundland. We have accents so thick that the national news has to caption them sometimes. And I'd bet all the way down there in the southern US you've heard Newfie jokes. So, chill, really.

  14. All - Thank you so much for your kind words of affirmation. Really. Blogging is weird in that way--you put things out there and sometimes wonder how it affects someone. Thanks for removing some of that mystery.

    Specifically to Jen in Newfoundland- Thank you. I worried that this would seem like a shameless attempt at getting "YOU GO, GIRL! TO HELL WITH THE CRITICS!" comments for feel-good purposes.You're right--it wasn't. I feel so relieved that you recognized this--it was really about Grady and my biggest concern was that I was clueless about several others sharing that commenter's point-of-view.

    That said, the feedback that everyone provided about using the actual jargon of my patients was valuable and reassuring. Thanks for that.

    I also agree that the critic was very respectful. I really do. Thanks y'all. 'Preciate you.

  15. I love your writing, ESPECIALLY when you document the way your patients speak. It really makes them come alive for me. I almost feel like I'm there as a fly on the wall when you write. Don't change a thing, Dr. Manning. That would ruin the magic that is your blog.

  16. I think Anonymous must not understand who southerners are. This is the way we talk to each other. It doesn't mean that someone is unintelligent because they talk in a dialect. And copying the dialect isn't a form of ridicule. Needing a public clinic for health care isn't a character flaw, it means the person has had a hard life. Many good and wise people have lived in poverty. You write about people as they are and I never have felt that you were being overly judgmental.

  17. Dear Grady doc, really, I had the opposite response when I found you. I felt that here, here finally was the voice of a doctor who loves what she does, who loves and respects and fights for her patients, who might literally heal my own fear of going to the doctor. There is so much love and heart and humor here, so much honesty and truth. I appreciate it all. As for the dialect, I see that as you trying to share the experience in its most authentic voice, the way you heard it, and always, always I feel the love coming through. You are a person of character, that is clear in the way you responded to the troubling comment. But I would like to say, keep right on doing what you do, writing what you write, because most of us get it, we really do. And we are grateful. Love, Angella

  18. Too choked up and proud of my daughter to comment!!

  19. *I have never commented on your blog but feel that I have to in light of this comment.*

    I discovered your blog a few weeks ago and read through every single post you have written since then. Your writing is amazing, and I am so impressed with the level of care that you give all of your patients. You treat your patients like - human beings, something that seems lost on many doctors today. The experiences that you share make readers like me rethink how we treat those who are not in our socio-economic sphere. You exemplify the fundamental characteristics of "humanity", a concept that is emphasized in every morally based text in the world.

    As far as your use of vernacular, I liken your style to my favorite author, Zora Neale Hurston, and the criticism she got for writing in "Southern" language when she wrote "There Eyes Were Watching God" and her short stories. She, like you in a lot of ways, was an anthropologist using her skill to record the history and culture of a people who were oft forgotten. You are chronicling your experience and giving a "voice" to the patients that you serve. In order to accomplish this and make the patients more relatable to your audience, you use detail to make your patients real to those who will never have the pleasure of meeting them, but learn from them just the same. We know them as our granny or great-uncle or cousin. You give us non-medical professionals hope that our family, regardless of economic status will receive the care from a passionate doctor they deserve.

    Sorry that this is so long, but thank you for the inspiration. This English-degree holding attorney aspires to be as eloquent as you.

  20. I am knee-deep in Step 1 studying, but had to wade out for a quick comment today.

    The commenter may be a bit too sensitive because of whatever journey they have been on to arrive where they are today.

    My husband is from the South and whenever we visit family I feel like I (and even he himself, since he's been away for so long) need an interpreter during particularly excited portions of conversations.

    Yes, people do not always speak grammatically correct English in the South - many factors (historical, cultural, social, etc.) have contributed to this. The fact that you are neither ignoring nor sanitizing the language only enhances the authenticity of your stories. Whether or not the anonymous commenter realizes, "correcting" people's language on your blog is what would be truly demeaning and disrespectful.

    I would write more, but I have to get back to studying.

    Sending you a mental hug and a heartfelt thank you for being who you are and doing what you do.

  21. ... one more thing...

    Until I met your blog I could not imagine myself being happy in Internal Medicine (no way!). Not only am I beginning to think that Internal Medicine might be the greatest specialty out there, but I am really wondering if there is any other place that could be as great as Grady Hospital. All because of your writing...

    Your love, your medical nerdiness, your kindness, your caring, your everything is infectious in a very good way.

  22. I think Anonymous needs to review the definitions of "degrade", "snide", and "rude"... I'm jes saying!!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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