There Is A Real Human Behind Every Mask-Searching For Peace

By Brian De Francesca

18 years ago today, my mother died. If that was the end of her journey – I do not know.   I was not with her. I was on my way to Stockholm where Casper was due to arrive on the scene; that had its own challenges and learning experiences – a story for another time.  I know that I was a good son, but still feel I could have been better.

My mother died, I will die, my children will one day die.   Until of course, we find a cure for death, which will eventually happen. Brian and momI am not sure that is a good thing – but it will not be my decision to make. But for now, our physical time here is very temporary and fleeting.  Each moment, more valuable than the one before – because there are fewer remaining.  As tribute to my mother, today will be special

I started with breakfast with my good friend and a wonderful human.   I will cut my daily dosage of medications in half, as part of a tapering target of being totally free of them by October 30th.   For those of you who don’t know, I have been on a cocktail of anti-anxiety medications for almost two years, since my world blew up.   I have been on maximum dosages of: 20mg of Cipralex (escitalopram), 50mg of Anafranil (clomipramine), 100mg of Seroquel (Quetiapin) and 2mg per day of Xanex.   This has allowed me to function in society, but has limited me to being somewhat of an emotionless Zombie – but without these, I would have been disabled by panic and anxiety.   So, medications at times are the proper weapon – taking them is not a sign of weakness – they are a tool to serve a purpose.   I know that I am strong enough now, to finally toss away this temporary chemical crutch, which I know will make my mother happy.

I am starting to feel that most people live and then die, having never known true peace; I feel this way, because I am learning that my path to peace requires true forgiveness of everyone; surrender to the universe (which is hard to explain in this short space) and complete transparency – which is a step or two beyond being just “honest.”  I am just at the beginning of the journey.   I have learned that so many of the people around you, have some sort of horror they keep caged inside.   This may be the cause of one person being an asshole; and another being so shy – most of the time, we never get to see inside.  My mom is a star now; occasionally she visits us as a butterfly – she is proud of me, I know this.   When I was very young and attending Catholic church, there was always a section in the mass, where you were to turn to the people around you and say, “May peace be with you.”   We all robotically went through the motions and parroted the words.butterfly

Now, all these years later; I can say, this and truly know what I mean:

May peace be with you.
Written by, Brian de, @B_defrancesca

“The Meaning of Brian De Francesca’s life-his purpose for being -is to use digitalization and connectivity to help as many people as possible before he dies”


How Strange A Thing Is Life?

By Alya Ahmad, Pediatric Hospitalist

“How strange a thing is life…”

It starts out so simple, just food , sleep, and comfort for the bodily routines. It is the baby regarding the warmth of the mother’s voice, face, and the breast. 

then comes the first turn, the roll over, the baby steps, and so then comes the watchful eye of the mother. She fears the fall, the break, the pain.

as time flows, so does the worry. the child speaks, first asks, then demands, then expects. The mother does it all and then the child runs, spells, and befriends.

The baby becomes the child; the child becomes the teenager.

Very soon, the child has no memory of all those tender kisses, the smell of sweet milk, the hugs, and reassurance. The teenager shuts the door, speaks little, and goes on with what they hold important. The mother upholds, waits, and wonders.

How strange life is? As the man walks out the door, waves goodbye, and moves on. All those days that have melted away, the chalk on the ground, the bicycle lays rusted in the garage, the books on the shelf have aged and grown with the child, soon to be stored away. Memories of movie nights, junk food, cereal boxes, appointments, parent teacher conferences, game days, the audience at graduation, the accolades, and the pictures on icloud streaming away.

How strange life is? As I sit here, waiting, wondering, hoping, watching, thinking, writing, feeling, storing. All the things you spent a life time building and now having to discard, give away, and handover. Forget, forget, forget. 

How strange life is? It stops for no one, it tics away without fail. it lives beyond you. 


This Story took my breath away….

edward gelano embraces



Fifteen years ago I became caught up in a story that I have told on numerous public occasions, sometime reading it, sometimes telling it from memory.

This story is by the South American writer Eduardo Galeano, and it is titled “Christmas Eve.”

Fernando Silva ran the children’s hospital in Managua. On Christmas Eve, he worked late into the night. Firecrackers were exploding and fireworks lit up the sky when Fernando decided it was time to leave. They were expecting him at home to celebrate the holiday.

He took one last look around, checking to see that everything was in order, when he heard cottony footsteps behind him. He turned to find one of the sick children walking after him. In the half light he recognized the lonely, doomed child. Fernando recognized the face already lined with death and those eyes asking for forgiveness, or perhaps permission.

Fernando walked over to him and the boy gave him his hand. “Tell someone . . “ the child whispered. ”Tell someone I’m here.”

—Arthur Frank

Letting Stories Breathe: A Socio-Narratology

Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2010:4


A Surgeon Mom’s Call For Action Against Gun Violence, By Dr. Farah Karipineni MD


Like many of us, I have been struggling to reconcile my love for everything good about this country with the senseless gun violence that terrorizes us today. In the wake of each shooting, I vow to do more—to speak up as a surgeon, as a former victim of gun violence, and simply as a fellow human—but the words escape me. How do we make meaning out of such shameful tragedy

My first and most intimate experience with gun violence occurred at the age of 5. “I’ve been shot.” Those three words, and the events immediately preceding them, changed my family’s world forever. It was 1988, and we had just moved into a new house in the hills. Building a house in the previously barren hills was an endeavor that upset many in the predominantly Caucasian community. And so, on a warm summer night, a gunman broke into our property, broke the glass in the kitchen window, and shot my father multiple times. Ever calm in chaos, he climbed the stairs dripping blood, informed my mother of what had occurred, and hid my sister and me under a dresser desk before calling the police.

Shards from his eyeglasses would wedge themselves into his cornea and change his vision forever. Other, less visible wounds would bleed into our lives over time. To this day, in my thirties, in the darkness of my own home, I still at times fully expect to turn a corner face-to-face with an armed intruder.

Still, we chose not to live in fear or anger. After a 3-month stint in L.A. where my dad grew a thick beard and purchased a bullet-proof car, he insisted we move back into that house. The message was clear: we would stand tall and persevere.  Not only did we persevere, we thrived; that home is where my sister and I were married, where innumerable farm animals have reproduced, and where hundreds of trees bear the weight of many fruits each season.

Fast-forward several years to my surgical residency, where gunshot victims showed up in our busy north Philadelphia ER every day of the week.  Perhaps as a result of my own history, each penetrating trauma victim is imprinted on my mind: the 12-year-old schoolgirl in plaid uniform and braids who arrived D.O.A.; the young prostitute in shock, eyelids closing shut for the last time to reveal thick false lashes; the teenage boy thrown hastily out of a friend’s backseat to the E.R. doorway, whose heart could not be massaged or resuscitated back to existence. What was I doing to help reduce these preventable deaths? The problem was too vast, too deep, too messy, many times involving children with no sense of purpose or belonging other than the gang they pledged their lives to.

Both of those experiences lie in stark contrast to the mass shootings that plague us today. I have never cared for a patient shot with a military-style weapon. I have never cared for a victim of a mass shooting, although with AR-15s, the likelihood of surviving a bullet is low. But I know we as a society can do better. I know that apathy towards mass shootings, or opposing efforts to stop them, is not constitutional. I know that the majority of Americans do not own guns, and that of those who do, only 7% of them are members of the NRA.  I know that young people are fearlessly mobilizing in this era of social media, senseless killing and alternative facts, and they are roaring to be heard.  I believe they are our future, and they may very well accomplish what we have failed to.

These facts give me hope.

Out of our darkest moments come our brightest light, and there is much we can do. We can support bills that prohibit assault weapons, as no civilian needs an AR-15—this is common sense, not a constitutional loophole. We can sign up to be Sandy Hook Promise Leaders, and initiate their prevention programs that address alienation of at-risk youth, empower school children to speak up, and educate people on the warning signs of citizens who are at risk of hurting themselves or others. We can support H.R. 4909, the STOP School Violence Act. We can support legislation to keep guns out of the hands of individuals with criminal or mental health backgrounds, and institute more stringent policies for gun owners to obtain and maintain possession of their weapons. Because consumers have more power than we may realize, we can also support businesses that stand for responsible gun policies, and vociferously shun those that don’t. And we can advocate for changing the very fabric of a political system that values financial gain above basic humanity.

Gun violence is about public health, not politics. When kindergarteners and high schoolers alike cannot attend school in America without being gunned down by military-style weapons, and any public place becomes a target for mass killing, we need to recognize that this is not a partisan or constitutional rights issue.  Gun violence kills 96 people each day in this country; 7 of them are children. Over twice as many are injured.

As physicians, we are uniquely positioned to stand up for social welfare, and the time is now. We have a voice, and we must use it. Our very lives, and those of our children, depend on it.


Better than an App!

A medical student’s simple cartoon guide about Diabetes type 1 and 2, made by Serena Luong. This is a Cartoon Story about what diabetes is, and how to treat it. Made by an astute 4th year medical student, who observed the confused look when the doctors gave him this diagnosis. She went back and the next day, made this: