After reading William Carlos Williams’ The Doctor Stories the patients of my own past began to haunt me. Driving in my car, musing in elevators, winding down at my desk at the end of the work day; the patients in my own past just crowded out all thoughts in my mind. Their compelling stories nearly became an obsession. I began to keep a journal. In it, I kept track of who was haunting me and as much of their story as I could remember.
As their numbers grew and I had more details clear in my mind, their stories took form and shape. I have always been one that remembers people by their face more than their name and the faces would appear and their stories would come back to me as though it was yesterday.
Some of these patients had not been remembered for over thirty years going back to my time as a student and intern. And yet when I started to compose at my computer, the words just flowed. The stories wrote themselves. The emotions attached to the patients had not dimmed and propelled me forward in the effort to put their stories down in narrative form.
There are scores of patients whose stories came back to me that I have organized into approximately 30 different chapters. Each story stands alone but all have the common themes of pathos, compassion, trial and triumph of the human spirit. The theme of the triumph of the human spirit suffuses the entire book. I am continually amazed at how humans can handle what life throws at them. We never know how much we can handle until we are asked to rise above extraordinary circumstances.
At the same time there are the oddly amusing stories. Sometimes it is enough just to put a smile on one’s face. There are stories like that too.
The patients in my book all have had to deal with the extraordinary. Everyone is vulnerable to illness and death. The patients described in the pages of my book stand out in some way as remarkable. The book is a memoir, but it is not about me. The book is about the patients and their struggles.