Patricia Harman, a nurse-midwife, manages a women's health clinic with her husband, Tom, an ob-gyn, in West Virginia-a practice where patients open their hearts, where they find care and sometimes refuge. No one answers, and I tap again, louder, hoping he's not in the middle of a pelvic exam. "I have a new OB that's spotting; can you do an ultrasound for viability and dating? When I reenter the exam room I find the small group standing in a knot next to the sink.
Patsy's memoir juxtaposes the tales of these women with her own story of keeping a small medical practice solvent and coping with personal challenges.
I wanted the staff and the patients to be able to look out at the sky. "I'm her grandma." This is not a cordial group, and I'm wondering what kind of conversation they were having before I came in.
That's me in the back, with round pink cheeks, short straight brown hair streaked with gray, and wide blue eyes; a tall, girlish, middle-aged woman. "Let me go over what you've written in your history, and then I'll ask you more questions. They turn to greet me in their aqua checked scrubs but keep on with their work. "Hi, Donna," I say as I pull open the heavy cherry door to the clinical area. Donna, at the checkout desk, looks over her sleek hornrim glasses and gives me a smile. There are framed photographs of babies and flowers and trees, pictures I took myself and hung to make the space seem less clinical, and a bulletin board with handouts on stress reduction, wellness, and calcium. On it lies a folded white sheet and a blue cotton gown with two strings for a tie. I need to sleep but I need to tell the stories. It's rapid, and when I pinch the pale skin on her forearm, it tents, a sign of dehydration. The stories need to be told because they are from the hearts of women; the tender, angry hearts; the broken, beautiful hearts of women. Waving to the receptionists, I rush through the waiting room.