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Poetry and Medicine
March 21, 2001


Author Affiliations

Poetry and Medicine Section Editor: Charlene Breedlove, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2001;285(11):1406. doi:10.1001/jama.285.11.1406

Even in a bubble, with gown-mask glove entry,
how long can she live—no, survive—
in her antigen-infested world,
while unwillingly harboring that interloper,
the barbarian devouring
her immunoreactive wherewithal.
What options? Select one,
and press the pound sign:
say, stem-cell concentrates,
harvested, then laboriously purified
from, yes, umbilical cord blood
that would otherwise gush
into delivery-room waste buckets;
say, corrosive drug combos that consume
all, and render the recipient bald and vomiting;
say, a bone-marrow transplant
matched from donor anon,
after her own distressed cells
are swept to their radiologic deaths
and she lies prostrate in the cusp;
say, a monoclonal antibody, newly approved
by the FDA, to home in with guided missile power
upon those alien tumor cells that
for all their cunning pretentions,
find no refuge in body cavities or soft tissues.
They can be tricked: their tell-tale receptors,
borne on every outer surface,
will be their undoing. Pick this one first.
There may be time for others.
And, oh yes: which option
will managed care pay for?
100 minus age? Press two,
and activate the slide to oblivion.

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