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A color ink drawing of a neuroradiologist studying the MRI films of a patient.

'MRI Film of an AIDS Patient'
(ink drawing with tempera, 30' x 39')
©May H. Lesser


The neuroradiologist studies the MRI films of a 34-year-old man, an inpatient at the university medical center, whose AIDS virus has invaded his spinal cord and his brain. He advises the primary physician in his report to have a biopsy of the cerebellum. He turns to me, "It will take $300,000 to keep him alive for a year and who has $300,000?" He tells me that he, himself, is married and has a son, that the patient is from out-of-town, from San Francisco. I smile to myself, as if there are no such patients native to New Orleans. I notice that when the physician can do something for a patient, he seems to move closer to that patient. Here the reverse appears. In our recent past, before drugs, mental patients were kept away in hospitals out in the woods, and the caretakers distanced themselves from the patients. Today the young doctor kept his distance for emotional safety.