Two days ago, I got chastised for presenting a patient as if they were a story, rather than a case.
The attending I was working with looked at me and said, “There’s a reason why they’re called cases. Their illness is a mystery that we need to solve. With everything you tell me, you want to build an argument, layer by layer, towards a certain diagnosis. Persuade me that what you think is wrong, is actually right.”
I should know that already from all the Grey’s Anatomy that I’ve been watching lately. It’s been getting under my skin and into my brain and in-between my toes.
Even with McDreamy setting a perfectly lovely example, though. I still want to lay a patient’s history out on the table. Every piece equal, round, and reactive to light. Like their pupils. (Hopefully. Unless there’s cranial nerve III damage. But let’s not go there.)
But, especially by the time we get them, their stores are too complex. Too multi-dimensioned to really fit neat and clean into one diagnosis.
What are the pertinent positives?, you\r attending will ask you.
Everything. Nothing. Some. All. None.
They are here now because of everything that has happened in their past, all taken together, every little bit adding up. And to say, this patient is peptic ulcer disease. Definitely. For sure. No questions asked.
Seems a bit reductionist.
Maybe this is why I felt so compelled to bake with the Meyer lemons Shannon sent me for my birthday pretty much immediately upon receiving them.
Regular lemons are great. Don’t get me wrong. But they are what they are. They are tart and tangy. Stable and secure. Dependable.
You can sum them up in a sentence. And not really feel like you’ve sold them short.
And then there are Meyers.
Those little ovoid balls of contradictions that look like a lemon and bite like a lamb.
At once sweet and sour, they are so complex that you want to anthropomorphize them. Or at least turn them into lemon bars.
Lemon bars, in fact, that are so multi-dimensional that you aren’t sure what to expect with each bite. So you keep biting. Bar by bar. Hoping that maybe, by your twelfth one. You’ll be able to describe them in a sentence. Make a diagnosis. Build your case.
Or perhaps you’ll just keep eating. And listening. Patient after patient. Story after story. Picking up the minutiae. The details. And creating, in your mind, a life rather than a case. Idealistic and markedly un-jaded, I know. But hopeful.
This post is part of the 835 Story Tour. To view more stories or submit your own, click here.
Meyer Lemon Bars
Makes 24, adapted from Smitten Kitchen
For the crust:
1/2 lb butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 tsp kosher salt
For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tbsp meyer lemon zest
1 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or regular lemon juice)
1 cup flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9×13-inch baking pan.
2. For the crust, cream together the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter and beat just until mixed. Put the dough on a well-floured board and form into a ball. With floured hands, flatten the dough into the baking pan. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes.
3. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack.
4. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Let cool to room temperature. Cut into squares or triangles. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.