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A Piece of My Mind
January 15, 2014

The Mask

Author Affiliations
  • 1Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut
JAMA. 2014;311(3):245-246. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.284778

She was in her late 60s, but a lifetime of the sun’s abuse added 20 years of wrinkles to her face. I met her on a stifling morning, where I found her attempting to escape from her bed through an open window. A stroke had robbed her of language, so I could not verbally dissuade her from this pursuit. Besides, I never learned Zulu, and she never learned English. However, that same stroke had also taken the right side of her body, making her escape effort as futile as it was tragic. I rested my hand on her contracted arm, unaware that she could not feel it, and smiled behind the thick blue cloth of my mask. She stopped her fervent struggle for the window, though mostly because its inevitable failure had finally exhausted her.

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