The HIV/AIDS Care Unit (Unit 371) at Chicago’s Illinois Masonic Medical Centre was founded on a heartbreakingly simple observation. “We are all just people taking turns being sick,” stated Dr. David Blatt, one of the founders of Unit 371, in MK Czerwiec’s newest graphic novel — the aptly named Taking Turns: Stories from the HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Czerwiec was a brand-new nursing graduate on 371 during the height of the HIV epidemic, and Taking Turns is in many ways her tribute to the unit’s extraordinary spirit. The intention of the unit was made clear from day one: this would be a place where the most stigmatized and ostracized patients could be cared for with empathy, understanding, and love. ...continue reading →
In March 1996, I was a healthy, fit 50-year-old man enjoying life with a young family. A month later, I was in an induced coma fighting for my life against acute septic shock accompanied by severe adult respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multi-joint and -organ dysfunction which frequently accompanies sepsis. My sepsis was brought on by Group A Streptococcus (Strep A) in my bloodstream which compromised almost all my joints.
My trajectory which led to acute sepsis is not unusual. On Day 1, I had a very severe, but short-lived, bout of extremely high fever (40.5 degrees Celsius), followed by excruciating hip pain the following day.
By Day 3, the hip pain had become unbearable. That evening, we called my family doctor’s on-call service and a doctor came to the house at midnight. The physician felt my condition was osteoarthritis and prescribed anti-inflammatories.
On Day 4, my wife became so concerned that she called a doctor who was a family friend. ...continue reading →
Graeme Rocker is a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax
Editor’s note: Part I of this series appeared as a Humanities article in CMAJ; part II appeared onCMAJ Blogs.
Early days at home, with no major events until day 3. I simply could not get warm. It was the same on day 4. My extremities felt like blocks of ice coupled with which I had persistent cramps in hands and feet that wouldn’t shift. It finally dawned on me that this might be carpo-pedal spasm in a setting of some subconscious hyperventilation caused by overall discomfort. Whatever the cause, it was a lousy way to spend a day.
Day 5 Intense bladder spasms coupled with colonic gas distension pain made for, if not the worst pain, certainly the most discomfort yet. I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a horrible orgasm, but a bladder spasm in the early stages must come close to it. It’s a foul experience and for 5, 10, 15 seconds you pray for relief from an internal surge of gargantuan proportions and thank some deity when it passes. ...continue reading →