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On Being a Doctor |

The Journey

Ariel Frank Green, MD, MPH
[+] Article and Author Information

From Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, MD 21224.


Requests for Single Reprints: Ariel Frank Green, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, 4940 Eastern Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21224; e-mail, afrank2@jhmi.edu.


Ann Intern Med. 2008;149(7):511. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-149-7-200810070-00014
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Harry and Rose sit in the sunny courtyard, his arm around her, holding her close. They could be newlyweds. He gazes at her affectionately, his hair a tousled shock of white. Her frail body nestles into his. She is calm in his presence, but panic occasionally flickers across her softly lined face. When her fingers grow restless, Harry caresses her hand reflexively. A retired university professor, Rose is descending into Alzheimer disease. At times she is lucid enough to sense the blankness infiltrating her mind, but she cannot describe the feeling, cannot stop it. I visit her at the nursing home each week through Service and Awareness through Geriatric Education (SAGE), a program at my medical school through which medical and nursing students provide social support to older adults in the community. Rose's children hope our conversations will restore her sense of connection, if only for a moment, and give Harry a break from his doting. But after 5 decades of marriage, he and Rose are reluctant to be apart. “Where's Harry?” she asks whenever I take her beyond the locked door of the dementia unit. “We'd better find him.”

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