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A Piece of My Mind
July 25, 2012

Forever Young

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliation: Department of Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (alia.chisty@ucsfmedctr.org).

JAMA. 2012;308(4):351-352. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.8883

I first met Terri (not her real name) the day I discharged her from the hospital. I had just returnedto Connecticut after spending 6 weeks in rural South Africa working in an HIV clinic as an away rotation during my internal medicine residency program. Coincidentally, my first “inpatient month” as a third-year resident since my return happened to be the inpatient HIV service. As I pushed open the door to Terri's room, I was greeted by a waif already dressed in a snug checkered jacket, skinny jeans, and a cocked newsboy hat. She perched like a pixie on the edge of her bed, exclaiming, “My sister's waiting for me downstairs with the car running. I can't wait to get out of here and go to the mall!” Her gruff voice clashed with the furry boots on her feet and the bubble-gum polish on her nails, but 22 years of fighting HIV had earned her each raspy note like medals in a war. So I gathered her prescriptions and sent her on her way, thinking I would never see her again. After my rotation in South Africa, it felt like a luxury to be able to provide her with all of her necessary medicines, which I thought would help her stay out of the hospital.