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On Being a Doctor |

The Ghost of Dr. Said

C. M. Callahan, MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, IN 46202.


Copyright ©2004 by the American College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1994;120(1):80-81. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-120-1-199401010-00013
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I guess you would call it a nervous tic because it didn't seem to serve any useful purpose. From analyzing the rhythm of the movement, I can tell you that she had repeated it thousands of times. From head to toe she was fat and droopy in a cozy kind of way. She had the sort of lap that a kid or a cat would just naturally nestle into and fall asleep. Every few minutes she would flex her right elbow and, with a hooked right index finger, brush aside the collar of her blouse, snare her right bra strap, and yank the strap up and out while curling her shoulders and jostling her breasts. If a cat had been on her lap it wouldn't have awoken because the whole movement was as fluid and comforting as a deep breath. She smelled like baby powder but her clothes and hair were a little disheveled and grungy. She was about 60 or 70 years old. She had a big sack purse from which she pulled 10 or 12 empty medication bottles. Her physician had died recently and I was to replace him.

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