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They Laughed, They Cried at the 7th Story Slam

POSTED ON February 28, 2020

Story Slam February 2020 Some of the stories alluded to it. Others explicitly cited it. And still others simply exemplified it. The “it” being resilience.

“Stories are an indispensable part of medicine,” said Michael Vitez, Director of Narrative Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine (LKSOM), introducing the school’s seventh Story Slam on February 26.

Over the course of the next hour-and-a-half, 13 storytellers illustrated that point through the humorous, inspiring, and tragic prism of resilience.

Following the last of the narratives, the audience was asked to vote for their favorites, as is the tradition. Richard Martin, MD, was the night’s runner-up.

Dr. Martin stifled tears at several points as he paid tribute to his late wife, Sally, by recounting her courage through her final days. After undergoing a liver embolization, Sally’s decline was swift and unexpected. “My daughter later said, ‘That was the point at which Mom became not-Mom,’ ” Dr. Martin said. As she lost the ability to do much of anything for herself, Dr. Martin lamented, “There was no one to guide us through this part of the journey.” He became her live-in nurse, rarely straying far from her side until her death, an experience he considers, through all the obvious torment, to have been a privilege.

Dr. Gersh at Story Slam

“My Mom, the Prequel,” an ode by Susan Gersh, MD, FACP, DABIHM, to her 90-year-old mother was voted the audience’s favorite. “She’s a pioneer,” Dr. Gersh said. “She was a doctor when it was almost impossible for women to become doctors.” But today, she’s suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s disease, and Dr. Gersh finds herself trying to “dig down to reconnect with some part of her.” More often than not, their common ground is the dirty jokes she remembers.

Dr. Gersh is struggling with more than watching her mother disappear before her very eyes; she’s come to realize she’s also losing a piece of herself. “Our shared memories are now my own,” she said. “I love you, Mom. I miss you. I miss us.”