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June 6, 1986


Author Affiliations

Rochester, Minn

JAMA. 1986;255(21):2996. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370210164030

Mrs Johnson noticed my entrance from the corner of her eye and sat bolt upright in the hospital bed. "Good morning, Doctor, how're you doing? You'll have to excuse my hair. I didn't know I was going to be staying in the hospital." Her voice, loud and undulating, seemed to reach up and slap my ear. Her hair was extraordinary: a frizzy shock of white that danced on her head.

"Mrs Johnson, I'm the student doctor who's going to be taking care of you. There will be other doctors coming by occasionally, but if you need anything, just ask me. May I sit down and will you tell me what was going on to bring you to the hospital at 4:30 in the morning?"

She began to tell her story. As she spoke, she punctuated the air with her hands, her long, bony fingers moving in complete rhythm with her