Rachel Pearson is a hospital pediatrician and assistant professor of medical humanities at UT Health San Antonio and its Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics. Her memoir on medical training in Texas is No Apparent Distress.

Follow Rachel Pearson on Twitter: @HumanitiesMD.



Pandemic Journal, March 17–22

Dispatches on the coronavirus outbreak from Madeleine Schwartz in Brooklyn, Anne Enright in Dublin, Joshua Hunt in Busan, Anna Badkhen in Lalibela, Lauren Groff in Gainesville, Christopher Robbins in New York, Elisa Gabbert in Denver, Ian Jack in London, Vanessa Barbara in São Paolo, Rachel Pearson in San Antonio, A.E. Stallings in Athens, Simon Callow in London, Mark Gevisser in Cape Town, Sarah Manguso in Los Angeles, Ruth Margalit in Tel Aviv, Miguel-Anxo Murado in Madrid, Tim Parks in Milan, Eduardo Halfon in Paris, Anastasia Edel in Oakland, and more.

Among the Vitamin K ‘Anti-Vaxxers’

A mother looking at her newborn baby, Long Island, New York, 1959

Babies are at the highest risk for Vitamin-K Deficiency Bleeding in the first week of life, so the standard of care is to give the shot within an hour after birth. Many parents don’t know that the risk of VKDB is high in untreated newborns. I, like many pediatricians, see an increasing number of refusals. These parents see a vulnerability similar to the one that I see in their children, but in their minds the threats come from society. The way I see it, society is by no means benign, but it does offer vaccines and Vitamin K as safeguards against threats that come from nature.

The Challenge of ‘Chronic Lyme’

Nicolas Poussin: Et In Arcadia Ego (Arcadian Shepherds), 1637–1638

That chronic Lyme exists in the realm of experience doesn’t mean it isn’t real. When medicine does not acknowledge the reality of the subjective—the thick reality of lived experience—we fall laughably short in our efforts to serve patients. When it comes to tick-borne Lyme disease itself, we all need to expand our horizons. That suffering is real. It must be attended to. But to insist beyond all plausibility that one’s suffering is related to a tick bite is not feminist; it’s absurd. And to prey on suffering people who crave that certainty, offering them expensive, intensive, and dangerous treatments is worse than absurd; it’s cruel.