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One of 10,000 Stories

by Jeffrey Luther, MD, FAAFP


I was barely two months into internship, everything was still new and often exciting, and true exhaustion was still a few months away.


On a particular afternoon I found myself in the family medicine center, seeing my ‘continuity’ patients, though this early in the year everyone was new to me. This included Amy, a 20-year-old who was to become my first OB patient. As I walked into the room to begin her first prenatal visit, I was still fresh with the psychosocial philosophy nurtured in all of us, and so I began by asking how she felt about being pregnant for the first time. That was the point that she burst into tears and our visit went in an entirely unanticipated direction.


As I was to find out, Amy had just learned she was pregnant and her fiancé had been stabbed to death on the streets of San Pedro about a week before. I’m not sure how we navigated the rest of the conversation and visit. I do know that it lasted just shy of two hours (thanks to the mercifully light schedules new interns are given), and that it went well enough that we were to have many subsequent visits over the next thirty weeks or so.


Amy’s daughter, Brooke, was the first baby I would deliver from my clinic, and she was lovely. Sadly, by the time she was born it had been made known that my residency program would close on June 30, a victim of hospital financial woes and the lack of strong advocacy for family medicine in the late ‘80s. With June came our program’s closure and July 1 saw me continuing my training in Glendale, meeting an entirely new panel of patients. Except for two.


That same month Brooke showed up on my schedule for a well-child check. Amy had decided to make the 32-mile drive through LA so I could keep caring for her daughter. In time their circumstances changed and they weren’t able to continue with me for more than a few months, but that little vote of confidence meant the world to a fledgling doctor.


Today there is a photo album somewhere in my study with a photo of Amy, Brooke and me. Brooke would be 28 now. Perhaps more than anyone’s I wonder what her life has become.