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[Perspectives] The power of medical storytelling

Over two decades ago a surgeon told me the story of a young man with a spinal injury. The young man had a potentially catastrophic injury and either having surgery, or not, was risky. He had the surgery and recovered, but subsequently the surgeon was informed that the young man’s sexual function was entirely lost. The patient fell into depression and despair. The surgeon was devastated and blamed himself. The senior ward nurse on the Nightingale ward observed all this. She listened to her patient’s anguish and the surgeon’s distress.