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March 2, 1990

A Parting Gift

Author Affiliations

Toledo, Ohio

Toledo, Ohio

JAMA. 1990;263(9):1254. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03440090088033

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One evening a young man and his elderly father appeared at my door. The young man, thirtyish, handed me a crumpled letter and several x-ray films enclosed in a faded yellow folder. The letter, from a physician-friend of mine from the northern mountains of Pakistan, asked me to take care of the young man. The films confirmed that he indeed had a growth causing a near-total blockage of his lower esophagus. I asked the two to meet me at the local mission hospital the next day. Despite my initial refusal, they presented me with a small basket of fresh eggs as a token of their appreciation.

The Afghan Mission Hospital was built by Anglican missionaries in the 19th century. As its name suggests, it catered to the Afghan tribes who lived in the no-man's-land between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The tribal people came down from the mountains to the hospital, accepting