Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor
by Dr. Jim O’Connell, BHCHP Founding Physician and President
Dr. O’Connell’s collection of stories and essays, written during thirty years of caring for people experiencing homelessness in Boston, gently illuminates the humanity and raw courage of those who struggle to survive and find meaning and hope while living on the streets.
Below is an excerpt from chapter 1, “The Footsoak, August 1985”:
A sea of reluctant faces stared intently as I entered the Nurses’ Clinic at Pine Street Inn for the first time in early July of 1985, barely two days after finishing my residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). During the month of June I had served as the senior medical resident in charge of the Bigelow Intensive Care Unit, the bustling hub that cares for the hospital’s most complex and desperately ill patients.
Buoyed by the sense of invincibility that accompanies such passages, I strode into New England’s oldest and largest shelter, containing over 700 beds and located barely six blocks from the hospital, with a swagger that drew a stern grimace from Barbara McInnis and the other nurses. After four years of medical school and three years of residency, I had thought my training was finally over. My education in homelessness and poverty was just beginning…
“You hold in your hands a precious gem. For this volume instantly and irrevocably transports you into a fascinating universe of individuals usually invisible to us. They are often faceless and nameless, lost in plain sight, and forced to live on the fringes of society. But this volume makes unforgettable those who are usually forgotten. The riveting stories presented here capture each life in such moving and vivid detail that you will be forever changed.”
Howard K. Koh, MD, MPH