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November 14, 1990

View From a Room

Author Affiliations

Tampa, Fla

Tampa, Fla

JAMA. 1990;264(18):2433. doi:10.1001/jama.1990.03450180097038

I may forget a few patients over the years, fail to recall their faces, their specific diseases, their complications, but if you mention one of the 24 rooms on 4 North, the medical oncology floor, a flood of names will rush before me.

I don't know why, but I usually shun the superstitious—the uncanny occurrences of life. I never felt I had to use the same bat in Little League or the same pencil during a test, or even to pick lottery numbers of a certain significance. But it seems that a few rooms on 4 North definitely have it in for me. Whenever I enter one of these rooms, pushing through the oversized, intentionally heavy doors, I feel deep within my gut that the victim inside will touch me, teach me, sense me, in a manner no other one would in some different room.

These certain rooms will play host to a human being I will come to know, to hold his hand while a resident performs some painful but hopefully necessary procedure, or perhaps share his grief, his foreboding of that inevitable event, through mutual tears. But eventually I will have to walk once again to the medical supply room, to find a small plastic bag containing