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A Piece of My Mind
June 28, 2006

The Autopsy Room

Author Affiliations

A Piece of My Mind Section Editor: Roxanne K. Young, Associate Editor.

JAMA. 2006;295(24):2827-2828. doi:10.1001/jama.295.24.2827

In my second year of medical school I worked as a night orderly at the Sunset Lodge nursing home. I lifted old men from wheelchairs to toilets. I dressed bedsores and stumps; changed sheets, pajamas, and catheters. Some of the men weighed more than 200 pounds. Many had had strokes. Lowering them to their bath, I had to check that the water was not too warm and make sure the men did not slip from my arms.

At bedtime the men and I talked. Friends and family had moved away, or had died, or didn't come. I was curious about old age; I wanted to understand their lives. My favorite patient was Robert. He spoke with a brogue and hobbled with a cane. He was 100 years old.

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