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Learning to Speak Like a Doctor This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 29, 2011

By Megan K., New Braunfels, TX

I am the daughter of a neurologist and an oncologist, granddaughter of a gastroenterologist, sister of an emergency medical doctor and neuro-critical care specialist. Medical language is the native tongue in my house, and for 16 years I could not interpret any of it. It took a year and a life-changing experience for me to grasp “med speak.”

“The MRI showed a four centimeter hemorrhage in the thalamus.” What does that mean? Will they ever stop talking about it? This was the dinner conversation at my house every night. My parents would talk about their day, and I would sit there clueless, bored, and silent, playing with the steak and green beans on my plate. Occasionally I could pick out a word or disease I recognized after hearing it mentioned so often. I would hear “lumbar” and think, That’s the lower back, or “spinal tap” and think, The test where they put a needle in the spine.

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