Click on the arrow above to listen (In emails: click on the title above)
“My name’s Leah Kaminsky and I’m reading from my short story “Tahirih” which appears in The Pen and the Stethoscope issued in the United States as Writer, M.D.
I ask Tahirih to lift her blouse and place my cold stethoscope on her skin. “Breathe in,” I say automatically.
Usually the air rushing in and out of healthy lungs sounds like waves washing up onto shore and then receding. Sometimes I lose focus when I examine a patient’s chest, and don’t seem to register what I am actually hearing. Today, the gurgling rattle of Tahirih’s lungs won’t let my mind wander very far. I put down my stethoscope and scribble out a form for a chest X-ray.
“Always better to play it safe,” I say matter-of-factly, as she tucks in her blouse. I hand her the referral.
“Bless you, doctor, for squeezing me in,” Tahirih says, reaching out and touching my hand lightly. “I would be grateful if you would give me something for this cough, meanwhile, just to help me sleep a little at night.”
I pull my hand away from hers just a little too quickly, and try to cover up my embarrassment by scribbling out a prescription for some antibiotics. The infernal itch is back. Every month I douse the bastards and every month they set up shop in my hair. Oh, the joys of motherhood.
“Thank you, doctor,” Tahirih says. She is so accepting.
Most patients nowadays ask me endless questions, pull out some crap they’ve printed off the Internet, wanting to discuss the results of the latest trials of the inhibition of IM-9 leukocyte 3-hydroxy-3-methyglutaryl coenzyme, which I’ve never heard of. They think their cybersurfing gives them an instant medical degree. I just don’t get it. Why are they so willing to swallow hocus-pocus herbs from some witch doctor without giving it a second thought, yet demand that I explain all the side effects and possible risks of anything and everything I prescribe? A simple thank you, doctor once in a while comes as such a relief. They have lost their faith in the profession, so that life in this room usually boils down to plumbing and pills. I am tired of listening. I am bloated with their stories. I have nowhere left to put them anymore. They spill out from me onto the pavement as I walk down the street, and I seem to be losing pieces of myself along the way.”
ABOUT LEAH KAMINSKY:
Leah Kaminsky is an award-winning writer and practicing family physician. She was the Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellow in 2007 and a Creative Fellow at the State Library of Victoria in 2010. She has published several books and is editor of an anthology of prominent physician-writers, The Pen and the Stethoscope (Scribe Publishing, 2010, & as Writer MD Knopf Vintage, USA 2012). Her collection of poetry, Stitching Things Together, is published by Interactive Press (2010). She is a student in the MFA in Fiction Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts, USA.
“Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellow 2007. CNF Masterclass with Robin Hemley and Peter Bishop 2009. I have an extra chamber in my heart, filled with Varuna.” Leah Kaminsky
The Pen and the Stethoscope (Writer, M.D.)- Editor (Scribe 2010, Knopf US 2012)
Stitching Things Together (IP Press 2010)
Your Child’s Health (Hardie Grant 4th edition 2003)
ABC Guide to Poisons (Houghton Mifflin 1991)
Spilt Milk (RMIT Poets 1988)
Articles, poems and short stories in numerous publications.
Varuna has been funded by the Australia Council to produce a Varuna Writer-a-Day “app”. When we have recorded 365 writers the app will be made available via the iTunes store. In the meantime, if you subscribe to this free blog, you can receive a daily reading delivered to your email inbox which can also be directed to your mobile phone. To find out more about Varuna’s programs, residencies, events and support services for writers click here.
If you would like to be part of Writer-a-Day submit your application via our online form.