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When Death Approaches

In Notes from the ER: Essays on the Human Experience, emergency physicians Thomas Burke and Joe Pellicer capture the brisk tempo of the ER environment in a series of succinct, honest medical vignettes about their work. In these essays they describe the split-second decisions and unexpected epiphanies that define and emerge from their work.

Every day, emergency physicians catch brief, often startling glimpses into the lives of total strangers. Although they rarely know the background and aftermath of a patient's state of crisis, they often bear witness to an intense, pivotal moment in his or her life. The rapid pace of their workplace--and the extreme undulations between lives lost and saved there--also shape their unique perspective.

Burke and Pellicer offer wide-ranging insights, from the universal relief and embarrassment that arise from "wasting a doctor's time" for a condition that disappears when a patient arrives at the hospital - to Burke's experiences as a doctor for the FBI Hostage Rescue Team during the incidents at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho.

Our Most Recent Essay

Its a special challenge for a physician when a loved one is seriously ill. All the education can never quite prepare a doctor for the experience. And, paradoxically, there is much to be learned from such a time.

All of us in the field of medicine are taught that when it comes to family or close friends, it is wise to recuse oneself from the role of healer. The myriad of competing emotions is well known to cloud judgment and potentially interfere with the best of intentions.

Im facing such a challenge now as my mother contends with a very serious cancer. Shes been fighting it for several years, but now it has metastasized to her brain and shes had several close brushes with death while she has spent the past month in the hospital where I work.

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