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A Piece of My Mind
May 22, 2013

The Proud Paratrooper

Author Affiliations

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

Author Affiliations: Division of General Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Boston, Massachusetts (tbaggett@partners.org).

JAMA. 2013;309(20):2109-2110. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.3044

Darkness surrendered to the Saturday dawn, unveiling a canvas of clear blue sky illuminated by the heatless light of a harshly cold winter morning. It was January in Boston. I backed my car into an empty parking space on Paul Sullivan Way, in the shadows of the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. The digital clock on the dashboard read 6:58 AM. Across the street, a blanketed man hunkered down in an abandoned doorway. Skirting patches of ice on a broken sidewalk, I rounded the corner onto Harrison Avenue and entered the shelter. The smell of alcohol and rotten feet hit my nose. Inside the shelter's medical clinic, a seasoned nurse was already tending to a crowd of patients.