Emily Silverman, who spearheaded the #VQRTrueStory collaboration in this issue, is an internal-medicine physician at the University of California, San Francisco, and the creator/host of the Nocturnists, an acclaimed medical-storytelling live show and podcast. She has published writing in the New York Times, VQR, JAMA, CHEST Journal, and the Examined Life Journal, and is currently working on a book with the support of a fellowship from MacDowell.
I used to have these dreams all the time when I was a kid about my teeth falling out. Or I would reach into my mouth and pull them out. But I hadn’t had them for a decade or two, until last week, when I woke up to get ready for my shift as a COVID resuscitation nurse and realized that I had dreamed about my teeth.
By Emily Silverman, Illustrations by Daniel Zvereff
December 3, 2020 | Essays
I can’t tell you why I rented the theater downtown, other than that it was inevitable, like the notes of a song. Facing the rows of empty velvet seats, I felt the thrust of potential. At night, doctors stood on stage telling stories—not of helicopter rides and loss of blood, but of waffling, of wanting, of grappling with themselves. The audience arrived like spirits, craving not entertainment but something more fundamental and urgent. I sat backstage, eyes closed, living and dying in every pause, every ripple of laughter. This—a live storytelling event by those in health care, for those in health care—was the first thing I had ever originated, one that came from the roiling place inside of me and not a script.