I spotted the season’s first iridescent blue and gold crocus poking through a patch of snow on my walk to clinic yesterday. Today, there are 6, in a small clump, and the flowers bend towards the sun. In a few days, a week at most, the petals will wilt and drop and, if the warming trend holds, other spring flowers will pick up the beat: daffodils, coltsfoot, blue violet, wild geranium. Once the forest floor thaws, carpets of mayflower and wood anemone and bunchberry will emerge, seemingly overnight.

But my favorite, the most difficult to spy before the ethereal one-half-inch…

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

It is New Year’s Eve on Peaks Island. A slushy mixture of ice and seawater churn and grind against the beach. A pale yellow half-moon throws a faint shadow over the schoolyard. Sandi and I lean into the wind as we inch our way uphill, barely at eye-level with plowed snow.

A dug path leads to a modest shed-roofed cottage. Opening the door, Arnold Berndt, bent-backed and mostly deaf extends a hand and welcomes us inside. “It’s not much,” he says loud enough for him to hear himself, “but it keeps the rain out!” Arnold’s son, Peter — who undoubtedly…

I flipped off the headlights of my truck on Widgery Wharf in Portland and clicked my neck, first to the right, then more forcibly to the left. Another missed ferry. A half-eaten chicken salad sandwich and an unopened Snicker’s bar lay within arm’s reach on the passenger seat. A stethoscope and 6 patient charts from my afternoon clinic on Chebeague Island protruded from my backpack. I looked at my watch. The next ferry won’t leave for another hour and a half.

Then I spied two policemen heading towards the police boat for the shift change on Peaks Island. …

House calls are a throwback to the time when medicine was more art than science, and not all of my house calls have been resounding successes. On my very first house call in 1985 on Chebeague Island, I forgot to pack a thermometer. To make matters worse, I couldn’t stop searching for it in my black bag. The mother of the two-year-old I examined looked at me like I was a total imposter. I should have felt her daughter’s forehead and declared it felt a little warm.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. …

Some years ago I applied for a Maine Recreational Lobster License. I owned a boat. I figured my back was strong enough to pull a few traps by hand. On Peaks Island, where I live, the recreational lobstermen and commercial lobstermen seemed to co-exist reasonably well. What could go wrong?

First, I needed to pass a test. I downloaded the lobstering study guide from the maine.gov site. The test was open book. I took the test while eating a bag of Doritos and drinking Baxter beer. I was uber confident. A few days later, a letter arrived: I flunked.

Mistake…

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Here’s a fun sneak peek of a part of my book Go By Boat that features Peaks Island’s favorite curmudgeon, Bud Perry, and his hospitalization at Maine Medical Center. Legally blind and on dialysis, Bud shows the staff who’s in charge.

This time another toe turned black. A vascular surgeon consulted but decided that Bud wasn’t a candidate for surgery. The major arteries were clogged and narrowed. The smaller arteries were clogged and narrowed. There was nothing healthy enough to bypass too. Bud figured they’d take the whole damn foot and be done with it, but no, the doctors wanted…

Photo by Paul Varnum on Unsplash

Twenty-eight years ago, a moose swam to Peaks Island, where I live, two miles off the coast of Maine. It shook itself off and meandered down the beach feeding on beach pea and rockweed as a growing crowd of islanders followed behind snapping photos. As our family sat down for dinner, the moose passed our house, before wading back into the bay. At least that’s what I’m told. We never looked up from our plates.

Animals living on Peaks Island wander in by water, air, or garbage truck (more on this later). And you never know what will show up…

Photo by Curtis Potvin on Unsplash

(If you enjoyed reading this check out part 1 here )

Stick with it.

You too can get an agent for that book.

In 2001 I was lucky enough to land an agent for my first book, Casco Bay Ferry Tales. The day after I signed the contract, jihadists crashed a pair of planes into the twin towers and our country went into a period of deep mourning. My book never sold. In the grand scheme of things, the fact that my book never made it into print was not the worst thing that has ever happened to me. …

The below is a short story recounting one of my first attempts at getting a publisher, which took several wrong turns, but ultimately tells of how I came to find my voice.

Photo by Jonas Jacobsson on Unsplash

In September 2001 I traveled to Philadelphia to meet an agent who was interested in representing my first book. I was beyond thrilled; after receiving dozens of rejection letters, an agent wanted to meet me, go out to lunch, and sign a contract. After paying the taxi fare from the airport, I asked the driver, which of two identical high-rises was my destination. He looked at the piece…

I’m interested in empathy in medicine because if my patients know that I listen and care about them, they are more likely to be honest about the real problems in their lives. This two-way conversation can overcome life-long barriers to improved health. Empathy matters!

The therapeutic connection between patients and health care providers is threatened as the electronic medical record (EMR) demands more and more of our attention. As we type, there is less eye contact. For every check-off box, every computer generated question, our empathy and kindness dims.

Doctor Chuck Radis is sponsoring an essay competition on empathy in…

Chuck Radis

Author of the upcoming book “Go By Boat”, which aims to inspire and educate. Join Dr. Chuck inquisitive perspective and learn how medicine can be much better.

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