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Pectoriloquy |

Guess that diagnosis (Kitchen Table Rounds) FREE TO VIEW

Sara Epstein, PhD
Author and Funding Information

Editor’s Note:The author writes, “I wrote this poem in answer to an assignment a writing teacher gave to describe a family game or ritual. Growing up with my father Franklin H. Epstein, MD, an academic physician, a nephrologist, and an editor at the New England Journal of Medicine, a wonderful teacher, and researcher, it was second nature to think diagnostically.” Sara Epstein, PhD, is a Clinical Psychologist in private practice in the Boston area.

Winchester, MA


Copyright 2016, . All Rights Reserved.


Chest. 2017;151(3):720. doi:10.1016/j.chest.2016.08.1456
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    You play this game around the kitchen table, the big, round, white laminated table.

    You listen carefully while your father presents the case.

    The symptoms are some of the clues you must use to solve the mystery

    (electrolytes out of whack, fatigue),

    Along with the presentation of the patient your father enacts (morose),

    The cadence of the voice (deep and slow),

    Description of the face (eyes downcast, droopy),

    The gait (slow),

    The family input (a change, a loss).

    The false diagnoses that had led to the consultation with the expert, your father

    (drugs, kidney disease).

    What would it be this time?

    Good guesses are surreptitious vomiting (now called bulimia),

    or hypothyroidism, my favorites.

    Outcome of the game:

    three out of four children who play this game will go to medical school,

    inspired by the mystery and theatricality of their father’s game,

    by his coming alive as he solves the mysteries that save lives.

    The fourth will become a psychologist,

    fascinated by the self-destructive aspects in her father’s stories,

    then she will become a writer,

    realizing that it is the stories themselves that make her come alive.


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