Brett DiGiovanna, BA
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DiGiovanna B.; Smell. Ann Intern Med. 2002;137:768-769. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-137-9-200211050-00015
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 2002;137(9):768-769.
This particular elderly couple impressed me. Their walls were flooded with pictures. Mrs. Rosen was the artist of the family. Small talk, a check-up visit, and then the social worker and I got up to leave. I had only listened and watched, having been introduced as a medical student. Mr. Rosen looked at me and asked if I still took anatomy, telling me that medical students were spoiled. I asked him why. “The formaldehyde,” he replied, “you never had to smell a rotting body on a battlefield.”
Suddenly his face became alive. His inquiry was an expression of a pained experience, and by questioning me, he was inviting me into that experience. I felt as if I had glimpsed the real Mr. Rosen and not just the body in the wheelchair. I had not been prepared for this clear view of a man's soul. Nothing I could say would show my understanding. I felt utterly disarmed and naked. My life seemed shallow in comparison, my inexperience embarrassing.
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Print ISSN: 0003-4819 | Online ISSN: 1539-3704
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