Shiwei Zhou

The patient is a sixty-something woman with
Well-controlled HIV who presents for follow up.

[When I called her a month into starting meds
To tell her she was undetectable
She called me “hon.”
She said, “Thank you, hon.”]

She reports no side effects on her regimen. She
Reports recent personal stressors, but remains
Adherent to her medication.

[She woke up four nights ago to the voice of
Her son, clear as if he stood before her, saying
“Ma, it’s bad out here,” saying
“Ma, help me, I’m scared.”

She took four buses, crisscrossing the city
Asked a driver to let her out between stops
When she saw a man in the park
Twitching, failing his arms the way her boy did
On his meds. But it wasn’t her son; it was
Someone else’s.]

She declined social work intervention.
Refills were provided. Labs ordered.

[She asks me, “did I ever tell you my son only went mad –
Schizophrenia – after my daughter died?”
She had not. She gives me two hugs that day,
One for each child lost. “I have to take care
Of myself first,” she says, “else I can’t
Help him, nor anyone else.]

Return in 6 months,
In person visit preferred.

[“I love ya, hon,” she says, turning to leave.
“Bye,” I say, having been taught somewhere
Along the way (wasn’t I?) that one does not say
I love you back to patients. “Please,” I say,
“Please, take care.”]

Shiwei Zhou is a physician by day and writer by night. Her writing and poetry have appeared in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, and the Healing Muse. She lives in Michigan.